Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: scissors.

scissors. As a term for the cutting instrument, scissors has been treated as a plural since the 14th century, and that is the preferred modern construction {where are the scissors?}. But the phrase “a pair of scissors,” which first appeared in the 15th century, is singular because the noun “pair” controls the verb, not the prepositional phrase “of scissors” {a pair of scissors is in the drawer}. Since the mid-19th century, “scissors” has occasionally been construed with a singular verb. Although this usage is now rare, it does occur — e.g.: “An efficient tool for this purpose, a nose (safety) scissors is small, has rounded blunt-tipped ends, and costs about $24.” Lois Fenton, “Philbin’s Monochromatic Look Catches On,” Commercial Appeal (Memphis), 16 Apr. 2000, at G4. As a term used in sports (e.g., wrestling, gymnastics), “scissors” always takes a singular verb {the scissors is a classic wrestling move} {in the pommel-horse competition, the scissors is a demanding display requiring great gymnastic skill}. For information about the Language-Change Index click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “Grammar is the science of what is permissible in the language, rhetoric is the art of what is effective. Grammar concerns itself with the possible ways of saying something, rhetoric with the best way.” John E. Jordan, Using Rhetoric 3-4 (1965).
Scroll to Top