If you're a Bespeaking devotee (loyal fan), we're sure you saw our blog on collective nouns in English (or the Easy English Blog here). Collective nouns in English are nouns that are in the singular form, but refer to many things, like hair, information, or money, so you would think they are plural. However, as with many rules in English, you can be sure that there's an opposite to any word form or grammar point. There are simply some English nouns that are always in the plural form- singular plurals.
Plurals may seem like the easiest aspect of learning a language, and for the most part (in English at least), they are. But sometimes things are a little more complicated and this is when words that only have a plural form come into play (are talked about).
Read on to find out about some of these singular plurals.
Think of Velma from Scooby Doo... "I can't see without my glasses!" Glasses (like goggles and binoculars) only have a plural form. You can remember this because one set of glasses is called a pair of glasses. No matter how many glasses you have, whether it's one pair or eighty pairs, the word is always going to be in the plural form.
N.B.: goggles and binoculars also come in pairs.
Just like with glasses, pants (or trousers in the UK) are also in pairs and the singular is the same as the plural. In fact, most types of clothes you wear on your bottom half are singular plurals: pants, trousers, shorts, leggings, chaps, tights, etc. The best reason we can come up with for this is that there are two holes, one for each leg, in a pair of pants, shorts, or leggings.
Are you noticing a pattern in these singular plurals yet? A good clue is that they are multiple things that form a whole. Such as how a pair of pants has two leg holes, a pair of glasses has two pieces of glass in them...so how about scissors?
Scissors also come in pairs; for example, you can say, "Can you hand me that pair of scissors over there?" Try to remember that scissors are made up of two blades that are connected.
Just like singular plurals can be two connected things that make up one object, they can also be terms for large collections of many things that aren't related. Take, for example, the word clothes.
Think about the clothes in your closet. They're not all exactly the same, are they? All of your clothes may be similar, but they're not all identical. This is where words like clothes come into play.
The word clothes is a great way to describe a large group of dissimilar things: shirts, dresses, pants, skirts, underwear, etc.
Singular plurals like riches denotes ownership, in this case. It also conveys the meaning that there is a lot of something. If a king has riches, it would mean that he is very rich and has a lot of money.
Some other words like riches are furnishings, belongings, and earnings.
Shenanigans is one of my absolute favorite words. It's just so much fun to say! Shenanigans are activities that may be silly, high-spirited, and a little mischievous. Think of silly high school pranks, or something along those lines.
Words like shenanigans (also heroics, hysterics, etc.) have to do with an activity that are similar in a certain aspect, while the specifics of the action may be different.
Last but not least, we have suds. Suds is a bit of a strange word, because like rice or salt, it denotes a large group of very tiny things. Words like rice, salt, sand, and sugar are singular nouns without a plural that indicate a very large group of something. But suds, on the other hand (a large group of bubbles), is only in a plural form.
We're not sure quite why that is, but we always love the anomalies in English!
Can you think of any other English nouns that only have a plural form? Share your favorite singular plurals with us in the comments below!
Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, blogger, yoga instructor, and knows how strange this is, especially when she has to do the opposite in German, but you'll get used to it - don't worry!