Spanish Lessons

Topics

Very Singular Plurals

Let's study a special type of Spanish plurals along with some idiomatic expressions in which they are used. In Spanish, there are nouns that can be used either in singular or plural to designate a single object that is constituted by symmetrical parts. That's the case of nouns such las tijeras (scissors), pantalones (pants), tenazas (tongs), gafas (glasses), calzones (underwear), etc. As in English, these Spanish nouns are normally used in the plural form. For example:


Estos pantalones, por ejemplo, son rosas
These pants, for example, are pink
Caption 56, Marta nos enseña - Prendas de ropa

Se recomienda el uso de guantes y de gafas protectoras.
The use of gloves and protective goggles is recommended.
Caption 56, Raquel - Fiestas de España

Que estoy viendo ahí unas pinzas muy curiosas.
Cause I am seeing there some very strange pincers.
Caption 84, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 16

However, for many of these it's also valid, but much less common, to use the singular form:
Este pantalón, por ejemplo, es rosa
These pants, for example, are pink

Que estoy viendo ahí una pinza muy curiosa.
Cause I am seeing there some very strange pincers.

For gafas it would be even less common, so we are not including an example. But let's see some examples from our catalog. Garments such as  pantalones (pants) are also used in singular:

¿Cuánto te cuesta un pantalón aquí?
How much does a pair of pants cost you here,
Caption 1, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 15

The noun falda (skirt) is also used both in plural and singular:

Esta falda, por ejemplo, tiene una goma elástica
This skirt, for example, has an elastic band
Caption 62, Marta nos enseña - prendas de ropa 

Another example. It would be much more common to say con las tijeras (with the scissors) but the use of the singular form is also correct:

¿Los rulos los hacés vos? -Sí, con la tijera.
Do you do the curls yourself? -Yes, with the scissors.
Caption 59, Muñeca Brava - 8 Trampas - Part 14

There are other cases in which Spanish prefers the use of singular and reserves the plural for expressive uses of the words. This is the case for el bigote (the mustache) and la nariz (the nose):

También, en el caso de los hombres, tienen bigote.
Also, in the case of men, they have a mustache.
Caption 77, Marta explica el cuerpo - La cabeza

Tiene la nariz roja y normalmente la cara blanca.
Has a red nose and normally (has) a white face.
Caption 52, El Aula Azul - Las Profesiones - Part 2

For emphatic purposes we can use the plural forms bigotes and narices:

¡Límpiate las narices y atúsate los bigotes!
Clean your nose and smooth down your mustache!

There are many expressions in Spanish that use these nouns. They are usually expresiones fijas (fixed expressions) or expresiones idiomáticas (idioms) that are used as a standard way of expressing a concept or idea. In these kinds of expressions the use of plural is predominant. Some of them also exist in English; others are easy to interpret. Let's learn a few.

Y aunque exista algún respeto, no metamos las narices.
And even though there exists some respect, let's not stick our noses [into it].
Caption 3, Molotov - frijolero - Part 1

o el Valle de Lecrín a las faldas de Sierra Nevada.
or the Lecrin Valley on the skirts of the Sierra Nevada.
Caption 25, Tecnópolis - Viaje por la red - Part 1

Finally, expressions using the plural pantalones (pants) are very common as well:

y que nadie ha tenido los pantalones para hablar
and that nobody has had the guts to speak
Caption 2, Andrés Manuel López Obrador - En campaña

Porque vos en esa casa no llevás los pantalones.
Because you don't wear the pants in that house.
Caption 53, Muñeca Brava - 41 La Fiesta - Part 6

You May Also Like