What’s the Plural of Shorts: Understanding English Nouns

  • Shorts‘ is used as a plural noun and remains unchanged in both singular and plural contexts.
  • English includes plural-only nouns like ‘shorts,’ which do not have a singular form due to their paired nature.
  • Terms for several clothing items and tools are typically used in the plural form, reflecting their dual aspects.

The absence of a singular counterpart for ‘shorts’ is a curiosity within English, where various items, particularly garments and tools, often come in natural pairs or sets. Similar to ‘shorts,’ words such as ‘jeans’ and ‘glasses’ defy the typical singular-plural relationship. This peculiarity leads to a fixed usage, even when referring to a single article of clothing. Such plural-only nouns reflect the dual nature of the items they represent, and the language has evolved to recognize them as inherently paired without the need for a singular form.

What’s the Plural of Shorts?

Effectively, there is no singular form of this noun in standard usage; one never wears a “short” but rather a pair of shorts. This classification is shared by several clothing items and other objects that consist of two parts or are used in pairs.


Below are further examples of pluralia tantum:

  • Jeans
  • Pants
  • Scissors

To illustrate usage:

  • A wardrobe may contain ten pairs of shorts, but even if it holds a single pair, the term does not change.

Items similar to shorts in grammatical structure:

Plural NounDescription
TweezersSmall tool for grasping
BinocularsViewing device

Linguistic note:

  • The word “shorts” is likely derived from “short pants.” Historically, “pants” (also a plural noun) is rooted in “pantaloons,” which similarly maintains its plural form.
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Singular Form of Shorts

Common Singular-Paired ItemsDescription
ShortsClothing item for the lower body
TrousersFormal synonym for pants or slacks
JeansDenim pants or trousers
  • The noun “shorts” implies a pair as a singular entity, meaning that one does not use the term “short” when referring to one leg or half of the item.
  • Similar nouns sharing this linguistic feature include “pants,” “jeans,” and “glasses.”
  • In English, some nouns are inherently plural because they describe items that are made up of two connected parts.
Clothing ItemsPlural in FormSingular Usage
JeansAlways pluralNot applicable
ScissorsAlways pluralNot applicable
BinocularsAlways pluralNot applicable

These nouns always require a plural verb form, for example, “The shorts are blue” instead of “The short is blue.” The absence of a singular form for such words underlines the idea that they are intrinsically made up of two parts or are used as a pair to function.

Understanding Shorts

The word “shorts” often causes confusion due to its construction and usage. Shorts is a plural noun despite its seemingly singular form, and it belongs to a category of nouns that do not have a singular counterpart. These items are typically objects that come in pairs or are made up of two connected parts.

To grasp the concept more clearly, consider the following comparisons:

Plural NounDescription
ShortsGarments covering the body from waist to thighs
PantsSimilar to shorts but often longer

Furthermore, usage in sentences adheres to plural verb agreements:

Plural NounSentence Example
ShortsThey prefer wearing shorts in the summer.
PantsHis pants were torn during the hike.

A few points to remember about the noun “shorts”:

  • Often comes in the phrase “a pair of shorts.”
  • Does not possess a singular form, such as “short.”
  • Treated as plural when it comes to verb conjugation.
  • Jeans are often blue.
  • Glasses help with vision.
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Plural-Only Nouns

Shorts, for example, comprise two leg sections and are always referred to in the plural, demonstrating one of the common plural-only noun categories: clothing. Likewise, tools and instruments that consist of two joined parts, such as scissors or glasses, also belong to this category.

Here are two tables outlining examples of plural-only nouns, categorized by their use:

Articles of Clothing

shortsGarment for the lower body with two legs
trousersSimilar to shorts, but longer
jeansDenim pants
leggingsForm-fitting leg garment

Tools or Instruments

scissorsCutting instrument with two pivoted blades
glassesEyewear with two lenses
tongsTool to grip and lift objects
binocularsDevice to view distant objects
  • Examples:
    • The clothes are drying on the line.
    • She offered her warmest thanks.

It is important to note that these nouns require plural verbs and pronouns when constructing sentences. For instance, one would say, “My glasses are on the table”, not “My glass is on the table”.

Sentences with the Word Shorts

Correct Usage in Sentences:
The term “shorts” takes a plural verb despite referring to a single item of clothing. For example:

  • They choose colorful shorts for their summer wardrobe.
  • He has several pairs of shorts in his dresser.

In Context:
To further illustrate, consider these sentences with the context provided:

ContextSentence Using “Shorts”
Describing what someone is wearingShe is wearing shorts even though it’s quite chilly.
Talking about a purchaseThey bought new shorts for the beach trip.
Mentioning clothing in a general senseShorts are comfortable for playing tennis.
Discussing an action involving the clothingHe put on his shorts quickly after swimming.
  • Shorts are often worn during warm weather or sports activities.
  • A pair of shorts typically ends above the knee.
  • The material for shorts can vary, as some are made of denim, while others are crafted from athletic fabrics.
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In emphasizing certain aspects:

  • It is important to note that “short” can also be an adjective meaning the opposite of tall or long, but when referring to the clothing item, it should always be “shorts.”
  • While “shorts” is plural, many English speakers will casually say “a pair of shorts” to refer to a single item.

Origin of the Word Shorts

The term shorts, in the context of clothing, has evolved over time from the phrase ‘short pants’, which originated in the 19th century. These garments, initially full-length trousers or pants meant for adults, were cut down to a shorter length for practical reasons, mainly to suit the needs of active children or to stay cooler in warmer climates.

  • Etymology of Shorts:
    Word Origin Definition
    Short Middle English sceort Originating from Old Norse skortr, meaning “short”
    Short pants 19th century Pants cut to a shorter length

As attire for leisure activities and sports gained popularity, so did the prevalence of these shortened pants, and by extension, the usage of the term shorts.

  • Shift to Current Usage:
    • Garment for sports: Adapted for ease of movement.
    • Warmer weather: Suited for high temperatures.
    • Fashion: Casual or outdoor attire.

Significant to the English language is how certain nouns become inherently plural, as seen in shorts. Similar to pants or jeans, these nouns lack a singular counterpart in modern usage. This plural form indicates items consisting of two parts joined together, which is reflected in the phrase ‘a pair of shorts’.


  1. Definition of shorts.
  2. Sentences using shorts.
  3. Origin of shorts.

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