What’s the Singular of Tongs: Unraveling the Mystery of This Kitchen Utensil

  • Tongs” is a plural-only noun and does not have a standard singular form.
  • The correct reference to one unit is “a pair of tongs.”
  • English includes pluralia tantum, nouns that exist only in plural form, such as “tongs.”

This dual-arm design means that, linguistically, there is no singular form for tongs in everyday usage. Instead, when referring to just one unit, people often say “a pair of tongs,” much like “a pair of scissors” or “a pair of pants.” Although it may seem counterintuitive, “tongs” is one of several nouns in English that are considered pluralia tantum, meaning they are words that only have a plural form. The language does not recognize a ‘tong’ when referring to the gripping instrument.

What’s the Plural of Tongs?

Singular vs. Plural:

  • The term “tongs” is always used in the plural form, even when referring to just one instrument.
  • There is no singular form in conventional use, although one could theoretically refer to one half of the tool as a “tong”.

Usage in Sentences:

  • Correct: “Please pass the tongs.”
  • Incorrect: “Please pass the tong.”

In grammar references, “tongs” is classified as a pluralia tantum, which means it is used only in the plural form and does not have a typical singular counterpart.

Plural NounsExplanation
TongsUsed to refer to the tool as a whole
ScissorsSimilar to tongs; always in plural form
PantsAnother pluralia tantum, always in plural
  • Salad tongs: Used for serving salad.
  • Ice tongs: For picking up ice cubes.
  • Blacksmith tongs: For holding hot metals.
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Singular Form of Tongs: What’s It Called?

“Tongs” are known as a pluralia tantum, which means they are plural-only nouns. This classification implies that they have no singular form because they consist of two connected parts that function as one.

To demonstrate the concept of pluralia tantum, consider the following table:

Pluralia TantumDescription
TongsA tool with two arms joined at one end.
ScissorsAn instrument for cutting, with two blades.
PantsA garment with two legs.

When one needs to refer to a single item of these objects, English language users typically utilize the phrase “a pair of,” as in “a pair of tongs,” similar to “a pair of scissors” or “a pair of pants.”

Here’s a brief list to clarify usage:

  • Please hand me a pair of tongs to turn the food.
  • Do you have a pair of scissors I can use?
  • I bought a new pair of pants yesterday.

Italicizing these terms brings attention to their unique grammatical category:

  • Tongs
  • Scissors
  • Pants

Defining Tongs: A Simple Explanation

Tongs are a common kitchen utensil utilized for gripping and lifting objects instead of holding them directly with hands. The design is quite practical, consisting of two long pieces that are joined at one end and can squeeze together at the other end to grasp items. Typically made of metal or heat-resistant plastic, tongs are essential for tasks requiring safety from heat or hygiene concerns.

Construction of Tongs

ComponentDescription
ArmsLong pieces used for grasping
PivotJoining point creating the fulcrum
GripsEnds designed to hold objects

This straightforward tool is versatile and can be found in variants such as salad tongs, ice tongs, and barbecue tongs, each adapted to its specific use.

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Singular or Plural?

The term ‘tongs’ is an example of a plurale tantum noun in English, which means it is a word that only exists in the plural form. Despite consisting of two connected parts, ‘tongs’ as a word does not have a singular equivalent. It always refers to the entire object.

UsageCorrectness
Tongs areAlways plural
TongNot used in English
  • Correct: “Please pass the tongs.”
  • Incorrect: “Please pass a tong.”

Nouns That Only Have a Plural Form

Common Pluralia Tantum:

  • Scissors
  • Trousers
  • Glasses
  • Jeans

These nouns do not have a singular counterpart and are often used to describe items that consist of two parts joined together.

Characteristics of Pluralia Tantum:

  • Used with a plural verb when indicating a single item (The scissors are on the table.)
  • Paired with ‘a pair of’ to indicate one unit (I bought a pair of jeans.)

Here are two tables that categorize some common pluralia tantum:

Clothing ItemsTools and Instruments
jeanstongs
leggingsscissors
shortspliers
tightstweezers
Collective ObjectsRecreational Items
glassesdarts
binocularscards
gogglesbilliards

Illustrating the Use of the Plural-Only Noun “Tongs” in Sentences

Simple Sentences:

  • Please pass the tongs; the pasta is too hot to handle.
  • She kept the tongs next to the grill for easy access.
  • The blacksmith manipulated the hot metal with heavy tongs.

Complex Sentences:

  • Although I searched everywhere, I couldn’t find the tongs when it was time to serve the salad.
  • Once the ice sculpture was complete, he carefully placed it on the pedestal using thick tongs.

Use of ‘Tongs’ with AdjectivesSentence Examples
Long-handled tongsThe chef used the long-handled tongs to reach into the deep pot.
Metal tongsThe metal tongs were ideal for flipping the steaks on the grill.
Use in Idiomatic ExpressionsSentence Examples
Hammer and tongsThey went at the debate hammer and tongs, each defending their views passionately.
  • Tongs in a sentence usually refers to the tool as a single item, but uses a plural verb:

    • Example: The tongs are on the top shelf.
  • In instructional context:

    • Use the tongs to transfer the beaker from the holder.
  • When referring to multiple types:

    • She purchased several pairs of tongs: one for the kitchen and another for the fireplace.
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Discovering the Origin of the Word “Tongs”

Etymology and Language Development
The origin of “tongs” can be traced back to the Old English “tange” or “tonge,” which is related to the Germanic “Zange.” The development of the word over time is a fascinating glimpse into language evolution.

LanguageTerm
Old Englishtange/tonge
Middle Englishtonges
GermanicZange

Usage Across Contexts
In different industries, “tongs” assumes various forms but retains its fundamental purpose as a tool for gripping. Here is an example of how the term varies contextually:

  • Blacksmithing: Heavy-duty tongs for handling hot metal.
  • Culinary: Kitchen tongs for food preparation and serving.
  • Beauty: Curling tongs or hair curlers.

Persistence in Language
The word “tongs” demonstrates the durability of language. Despite changes in technology and culture, some words persist with little alteration to their form or function.

Sources

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