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Why is the Word Binoculars Plural?

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If someone says: “I like this pair of binocular” around you, do you instantly presume their knowledge or background? Whether we like it or not, grammar is an influential tool and can leave a good, or a not so good mark. So, if someone not knowing the proper grammar regarding binoculars is your pet peeve, or if you do not wish to embarrass yourself in front of your new hunting friends, keep on reading, and let us dive into the world of grammar.

Grammatical Aspect

On the one hand, most uncountable nouns are singular in number. That is why they are paired with the singular forms of the word. For example in the sentences: “Please hurry, there is no time”, the verb ‘to be’ is used in singular and not in plural, for example, “Please hurry, there are no time.”

On the other hand, a few uncountable nouns are plural. They have no singular forms with the same meaning, and cannot be used with numbers. Some examples are: groceries, arms, goods, customs, clothes, regards, etc. The ‘pair of’ binoculars can be omitted if you do not need to be precise about numbers. But for precision, there is no other way, for example: “He stole a pair of binoculars” instead of: “He stole a pair of binocular.”grammar

Source: Istock

Binary Plurals

To be more specific, these words fall into the category of binary plurals. Some nouns with a plural inflection refer to instruments or articles of clothing that consist of two parts that are joined together. For example, binoculars, clippers, glasses, scissors, spectacles, briefs, jeans pants, shorts, trousers. They take a plural verb, for example, “If you need new optics because your binoculars have worn out, call me.”


  • Take a look at my new binoculars, aren’t they pretty? (Meaning a single pair of binoculars)
  • We sell Zeiss binoculars here. (Meaning several pairs of binoculars)
  • For a good hunt you also need good binoculars. (Meaning a single pair of binoculars)
  • I am no longer allowed into their store as I destroyed their binoculars. (Can mean either several pairs of binoculars or a single pair of binoculars)
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Even the most intelligent people frequently make writing and speaking mistakes and not realizing it. The word binoculars takes on a very rare and specific form called the binary plural, and now that you know this, there is no need to worry – just enjoy your hunting trip and maybe impress your hunting friends with your newly gained knowledge.

Source and author: Teodor Štimec, www.optics-trade.eu