Pair, Pare, and Pear

Commonly Confused Words

getty_pair_pears-90015259.jpg
A pair of pears. (Getty Images)

The words pair, pare, and pear are homophones: they sound the same but have different meanings. (In linguistic terms, these homophones are semantically unrelated.) 

Definitions

The noun pair refers to a couple or a partnership of two people (such as "a pair of lovers"), or to things that are two of a kind or made of two corresponding parts (such as "a pair of gloves"). As a verb, pair (or pair up or pair off) means to put two people or things together.

(Also see the usage notes below.)

The verb pare means to remove, trim, cut back, or make something smaller or shorter.

The noun pear refers to the sweet, juicy fruit or to the tree that this fruit grows on.

Examples

  • "I peered into the log. A small pair of black eyes peered anxiously back at me from out of a dark ball of ruffled blue fluff."
    (Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine, Last Chance to See. Harmony, 1991)
     
  • "After playing about ten games against human players, some of the players in this experiment were paired off against virtual opponents—computer programs that we had created."
    (Eyal Winter, Feeling Smart: Why Our Emotions Are More Rational Than We Think. PublicAffairs, 2014)
     
  • During the recession, universities were forced to pare their budgets, lay off staff, and raise student fees.
     
  • "He bit into the pear and ate slowly, relishing every mouthful of its sweet-tart goodness. Tossing away the core, he went on his way singing."
    ( E. Rose Sabin, A Perilous Power. Tor Books, 2004)
     
  • Pear trees are more tolerant of the cold than apple trees.
     

Usage Notes: Pair With Plurals

Plurale tantum is the linguistic term for a noun that appears only in the plural and doesn't ordinarily have a singular form (for example, jeans, pajamas, tweezers, shears, and scissors).

  • "Nouns for articles of dress consisting of two parts are . . . treated as plural:
    [A] Where  are my  trousers? [B]  They are in the bedroom where you put  them.
    But such plural nouns can be 'turned into' ordinary count nouns by means of a pair of or pairs of:
    I need to buy  a new  pair of trousers.
    How many  pairs of blue jeans do you have?"
    (Geoffrey Leech and Jan Svartvik, A Communicative Grammar of English, 3rd ed. Routledge, 2013)
     
  • "Suppose we're talking about things like scissors, tongs, glasses, or trousers. Scissors, tongs, glasses, and trousers are odd words; even though we might be, and indeed usually are, talking about one pair of trousers at the message level, we treat trousers as a plural, and therefore have to mark the verb as plural. We always say 'the trousers are too long,' and should never say 'the trousers is too long.' Talking of trousers, pants behaves the same way; we say 'here are your pants,' not 'here is your pant.' Just to complicate things more, the plural of these words stays the same, so we can say:
    Here is your pair of pants.
    Here are your pants.
    Here are your two pairs of pants.
    I have just glued your pants together, and here are two pairs of pants.
    Such words are called pluralia tantum (singular plurale tantum), and yes, they are confusing."
    (Trevor A. Harley, Talking the Talk: Language, Psychology and Science. Psychology Press, 2010)


Practice


(a) On cold days I wear an extra _____ of socks.

(b) When you travel, try to _____ down your belongings to the essentials.

(c) "Papa sliced the _____ into quarters and removed the center seeds."
(Louis F. Biagioni, In the Shadow of the Apennines. Dorrance, 2009)

Answers to Practice Exercises

Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words

200 Homonyms, Homophones, and Homographs

Answers to Practice Exercises: Pair, Pare, and Pear

(a) On cold days I wear an extra pair of socks.

(b) When you travel, try to pare down your belongings to the essentials.

(c) "Papa sliced the pear into quarters and removed the center seeds."
(Louis F. Biagioni, In the Shadow of the Apennines. Dorrance, 2009)

Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words

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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Pair, Pare, and Pear." ThoughtCo, Mar. 3, 2017, thoughtco.com/pair-pare-and-pear-1689587. Nordquist, Richard. (2017, March 3). Pair, Pare, and Pear. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/pair-pare-and-pear-1689587 Nordquist, Richard. "Pair, Pare, and Pear." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/pair-pare-and-pear-1689587 (accessed May 20, 2018).