scissors cut/cuts paper, which is correct?

30

5

First I'd apologize for I can't describe it clearly. I've heard that "scissors cut paper" is correct, but I found Sheldon said "scissors cuts paper" in The Big Bang Theory. Which is correct, or both of them?

7Though this question is a little bit vague (specially some rather irrelevant parts of the question), but it seems really useful to me, and I don't think it deserves to be closed! – mok – 2014-08-26T09:33:07.567

1Even native speakers would have trouble with this sometimes. – Panzercrisis – 2014-08-26T20:24:40.883

This question isn't vague at all if you know what the OP is asking. It might be confusing, but he's clearly asking how to conjugate "to cut" with a subject of "scissors", which changes from plural to singular depending on context (which is probably wildly confusing for a non-native speaker). – mbm29414 – 2014-08-27T17:26:13.937

32

In this case you are talking about the option you choose in a game. You could read the sentence as

The option scissors cuts the option paper

or, abbreviated,

Scissors cuts paper

So while "scissors" is plural and you would always say "scissors cut paper", in this case the word refers to an option within the game (singular) rather then the actual item.

Compare with "scissors are better than ..... " if you are a fan of sharp metal things, but if you are talking about the game you'd get "(the choice of) scissors IS better than ..."

3Please do not use code formatting for quotes. Use blockquote instead (place ">" at the beginning of the line). – Esoteric Screen Name – 2014-08-26T14:32:10.510

However, if I have a crate of 100 pairs of scissors, then I have many scissors. (Plural is same as singular) I can say of this crate "All my scissors cut paper." – Carl Witthoft – 2014-08-28T19:18:02.370

I'm not sure how this is a "however". In most cases "scissors cut paper" is the correct form. So your example is not strange. I mean, "My orange scissors cut paper" but also "My 2 orange scissors cut paper" would be another example, just as you can find a lot of them. That's just how it works normally. The point of the question is that we have an exception here, because of.. well.. insert answer here. – Nanne – 2014-08-29T08:35:54.870

So is it supposed to be written as 'Scissors' cuts 'paper' instead of Scissors cuts paper, to be grammatically correct? – anishsane – 2014-09-01T05:08:41.100

I don't see why? – Nanne – 2014-09-01T11:28:23.517

17

The reference is to the US tv show 'The Big Bang Theory', and to one of its main characters Dr Sheldon Cooper. He speaks excellent if highly idiosyncratic English. I listened carefully to a video and he does say 'cuts'. While grammatically 'scissors cut paper' is correct, explanations on the internet of the standard game 'rock-paper-scissors' and the Big Bang Theory game 'rock-paper-scissors-lizard-Spock' (which Sheldon attributes to 'the internet pioneer Sam Kass') vary between 'scissors cut paper' and 'scissors cuts paper'. Possibly the use of 'cuts' is influenced by the fact that all the other choices in the game are singular, and therefore use 'cuts' eg 'paper covers rock'.

16

A few words, though singular in nature, are made of paired items and generally treated as plural:

scissors, pants, trousers, glasses, pliers, tongs, tweezers, and the like. Many are often used with the word pair as in pair of pants or pair of scissors. (Tricky Plurals)

So the correct version in your case would be "scissors cut paper".

2This is true but I would say that 'scissor cuts paper' would also be acceptable and is a form often used when playing this game (though not as often as your suggested answer). The point is that 'scissors cuts paper' is never right. – krowe – 2014-08-26T11:20:49.407

3Agreed with the answer but not the comment -- "scissors cuts paper" makes sense in the context of the game as per Nanne's answer. – hunter – 2014-08-26T15:16:32.243

@hunter In the context of the game, "scissors cuts paper" still sounds wrong to me, but "scissors beats/trumps/etc. paper" is OK, just like "paper beats rock", whereas "paper cover rock" wouldn't (though the issue with singular/plural agreement is only really an issue with scissors). – Joshua Taylor – 2014-08-26T16:00:46.600

4

I think, the reason for confusion is:

scissors cut paper,

whereas,

a pair of scissors cuts paper.

1Exactly what I would have said. Scissors (general objects) cut paper. A pair of scissors (a single object) cuts paper. In Rock-Paper-Scissors you're talking about one pair of scissors so "Scissors cuts paper" is correct as it means "A pair of scissors cuts paper". – CJ Dennis – 2014-08-29T05:22:53.547

3

I agree with Esoteric. In the game "scissors" is a choice in the game - a title, if you will.

So, you might say "the choice of scissors" cuts the choice of paper.

"Choice" is singular, so you use "cuts"

Maybe more clear if you enclose scissors in quotes, as such: "Scissors" cuts "paper."

If you are talking about the tool made up of 2 scissors, you would say "scissors cut paper" because "scissors" is plural. I know this because I never say "This scissors is sharp." I always say "These scissors are sharp." So the tool is made up of two things, two scissors, and they cut. They don't cuts.

I have seen the same question come up with bands such as "The Ramones" and "The Replacements" and "The Bare Naked Ladies"

The Ramones rock ! Or "The Ramones" rocks !

Depends on if you are talking about a singular band called "The Ramones" or multiple Ramones.

Multiple Ramones definitely rock. But the band called "The Ramones" rocks. So The Ramones rock. But "The Ramones" rocks.

There is no doubt, however about The Cure, which is a singular name. With or without quotes, The Cure sucks.

1

I think the correct point in this is that scissors do cut paper. But when describing the action happening now a way of saying scissors are cutting the paper is 'scissors cuts paper'.

When you play the game and scissor and paper comes up then then the scissors cuts (the) paper.