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Un vêtement / des vêtements

These are from French lessons. I'm not an anglophone so I have more trouble with English in this case.

Is 'clothes' plural or singular? Is 'clothes' uncountable?

And another question is... How many piece of shoes does 'the shoes' refer to? In French 'la chaussure' when it's one and 'les chaussures' when it's more than one. I'm confused!

April 13, 2018



In english 'clothes' is uncountable as it is an umbrella term for everything that you wear. It is made up of each 'article of clothing' (singular form) including shirts, pants, socks, skirts, etc.

Shoes fall under the 'clothes' category. So you have one shoe, or two shoes in a pair. Wear a shoe on one foot, or two shoes for two feet. One sock or two socks. One shirt or two shirts.

The only tricky exception is pants or trousers because despite being a single piece it is always plural. You can't have a single pant, only a pair of pants. (I assume counting legs rather than pieces possibly? Not sure)


I liked how you pointed out 'clothes' as an umbrella. So it is more like a concept. Yes, there are so many tricky words in English!


'Clothes' is uncountable. Strange, I know. 'Shoe(s)', however, is countable, so 'la chaussure' would just refer to 1 shoe, not a pair.


(Edited in the light of comments from jkidder). "Clothes" is uncountable, but always plural, so you say "My clothes ARE in my bag" = "Mes vêtements sont dans mon sac". For one, you have to say "an item of clothing" or "a garment" = "un vêtement", but we would probably just name it and say "a jacket" (for example). "Clothing" is also uncountable, but less common, and as usual for uncountable nouns uses a singular verb, so you would say "My clothing IS in my bag", which is also "Mes vêtements sont dans mon sac". "Clothing" (uncountable) can be "habillement" (uncountable), which is also less common.

Yes, "shoe" and "chaussure" are countable., so "My shoes are in my bag" = "Mes chaussures sont dans mon sac". An uncountable word for shoes in English is "footwear", which you could hear in a shop, for example "The footwear is on the second floor". (No French equivalent, so "Les chaussures sont au deuxième étage".)


A small correction: the word is spelled "footwear", and it refers to any clothing for the feet, including shoes, boots, slippers, etc.


Oops! Corrected.


Thank you for the confirmation. Slowly my brain is digesting... a pair of glasses, scissors... there are so many tricky nouns in English! I've got confused because in the lesson I had to translate 'the shoes' to French then the correct answer was either 'la chaussure' or 'les chaussures'!


"La chaussure" is not a correct translation of "the shoes". Only "les chaussures" is correct.


According to the answer they give you both 'la chaussure' and 'les chaussures' Should I report then?


Just to be 100% sure, what is the sentence?


Reply to RhinoBug's last comment: So "la chaussure" is clearly wrong, and you should flag it. (no Reply button after your comment)


It wasn't in a sentence. In the lesson "clothing" there was a question to translate 'the shoes' into French.


I think duo considers vetement as a (single) piece of clothing, clothes is kind of indefinite, so des vetements.

Years ago comic songwriter Allan Sherman asked "Is half a pair of scissors a single scis?" And it was Gallagher who noted that we drive on parkways but park in driveways. :-)

Yes, les chaussures means more than one shoe. French has separate singular and plural definite pronouns, for the most part English does not.


The comic songs are funny! Do you know in Japan you have to pay tolls on freeways and they are working on building some highways under the city of Tokyo!


"Clothes" is plural and uncountable. It can never refer to a single vêtement, only to many vêtements.

"Clothing" is singular and uncountable. "Clothing" has the same meaning as "clothes", but it is a little bit more formal. For example, stores usually sell "clothing" rather than "clothes".

To refer to a single vêtement in English, most common is to call it by its type: the sock, the dress, the sweater. If that is not possible, the expression to use is "a piece/item/article of clothing".

As for "shoes"... That is a normal, countable noun. Two shoes make a pair. Much easier than "clothes"!


Your view that "clothes" is uncountable seems to be prevalent on the web, so I have edited my post. I had always considered that because the plural exists, it was automatically countable, but then as the singular doesn't exist, it is automatically uncountable! Whilst checking, I found "goods" and "groceries", which are the same. We never stop learning!


The way I had learned it was that if you can't put "a" or a numeral in front of it, it's uncountable. What I learned/realized from typing my comment above is how deficient that definition is.

Of course, for native English speakers, the main reason we ask ourselves whether a noun is countable is to decide whether to use "fewer" or "less", "many" or "much", where countable nouns take "fewer/many" and uncountable take "less/much". So, if "clothes" and "groceries" are uncountable, does that mean we should use "less/much" with them? Well... no. At least, I don't think so. I mean, I know I don't. What I'm saying is, this stuff is confusing.


Thank you peterviuz and jkidder. Your conversations are very helpful to me! Applying "fewer/many" or "less/much" test sounds useful if you are fluent in English.

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