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Two pounds butter

Posted by R. Berg on April 19, 2001

In Reply to: Two pound butter or two pounds butter posted by Colin on April 19, 2001

: : : : Hi!
: : : : I hope someone to help me. I'm working with two English natives and sometimes they don't agree with each other. I need third opinion.

: : : : 1.
: : : : a. two pound butter, two cup sugar
: : : : b. two pounds butter, two cups sugar

: : : : I believe expressions 'two pound butter' and 'two cup suger' are used as well as other expression such as 'two pounds of butter' and 'two cups of sugar.' That's what my grammar book says. However my English tutor told me that 'two pound butter' and 'two cup suger' must be 'two pounds butter' and 'two cups suger.' I wonder who is right. They all many be right.

: : : : 2.
: : : : a. A pair of trousers is on the sofa.
: : : : b. A pair of trousers are on the sofa.

: : : : I think sentence a. is correct. Do you accept b. too? You may say it in casual situation?

: : : : 3.
: : : : a. Education should be for both rich and poor.
: : : : b. Education should be for both the rich and the poor.

: : : : Do you accept both sentences? I think sentence a. is easier to say, so it may be more common than b.?

: : : : Thank you very much for your help.

: : : : T. Yonehara

: : : My opinion
: : : 1. In conversation -- two pounds of butter. But in a written recipe it might list: 2 lbs. butter.

: : : 2. Since a "pair of trousers" is a unit (one article of clothing), I would say b. a pair of trousers IS on the sofa.

: : : 3. Either a or b is correct.

: : "A pair of trousers is on the sofa." But "your trousers are on the sofa." A bit unusual, but saying "a pair of" stresses the unity, but the very same garment becomes, somehow, plural without the phrase. Same thing with "a pair of glasses is on the desk" and "my glasses are on the windowsill." And, just to confuse things a bit, I don't believe scissors follows the same path. "A pair of scissors is on the desk" and "the scissors is on the table." Or does someone out there allow "the scissors are on the table"?

: In London (Cockney) it can be, 'Two pound 'a butter'

Another opinion from a U.S. speaker: I allow "The scissors is on the table" and "The scissors are on the table." I agree with all the opinions posted above.

One thing that might be confusing in learning English is that when a number and a unit of measure join to form an adjectival compound, the word for the unit of measure is singular:
--a five-pound bag of sugar (NOT a five-pounds bag of sugar)
--a two-mile hike
--a three-day weekend
--a hundred-dollar gift certificate
--a twenty percent increase
Nevertheless, "two pounds of butter" is correct. "Two pound butter" is incorrect. Cookbooks often say "Two pounds butter"--with "s" but without "of."