If twins are always plural, how do I refer to a single twin, or how do we count twins?



I've learned that twins in English are always plural, e.g. there are the twins. Then how do we count twins? If there are four people coming, those are two twins? There are two twins? What if there are two people coming, who are twins. There are one twins? Or still There is one twin?

My misunderstanding stems from the fact that the Dutch word "tweeling" (singular) refers to a single pair of twins (two people), and "tweelingen" (plural) would imply at least two sets of twins.


Posted 2013-01-23T21:47:29.317

Reputation: 4 467



You say there is one twin. Twins, when referred to as a set, require an s, just like most other groups of objects.

There are the twins.
There is a twin.
There are the cats.
There is a cat.

And so on.

In the case of the four twins, you could say this:

Here come the four twins.

If you wanted to be more precise, you could say this:

Here come [the] two sets of twins.

Saying there are the twins does not imply any specific number, although many people would assume that there are two, since twins come in sets of two.

please delete me

Posted 2013-01-23T21:47:29.317

Reputation: 322

Hmm. But in this comedy movie called Twins, there is only one set.

– gerrit – 2013-01-23T21:57:56.147

@gerrit Right. There is only one set in the film, but the title does not specify—there could be 40000 twins, and they could still call the movie twins. That is not a particularly good example. – please delete me – 2013-01-23T21:59:06.417

And in case there is a word that has only a plural, you use "one [something] of." Like "There's a hole in one of the legs of the trousers". – SF. – 2013-01-23T22:03:58.560

1"Twin" means the individual, not the pair. If you mean both of them, you would say "a pair of twins" or "a set of twins". If you say "there are two twins", that would mean two people who are both twins. We'd probably generally assume they are twins of each other, but that wouldn't necessarily be the case. It would be quite reasonable to say, "We have two people in this room who are twins", without meaning that they are twins of each other. – Jay – 2013-04-30T15:15:40.443


Remember that twins always come in pairs, i.e there are always two of them. So four people would be two pairs of twins. Two people would be a pair of twins. To say 'one twin' implies that you are talking about just one of the persons in a pair.


Posted 2013-01-23T21:47:29.317

Reputation: 723

Right — so the word twin/twins refers to the individual, not to the pair. – gerrit – 2013-01-24T08:50:36.153


A "twin" is one of a pair of twins. One set of twins refer to two people who were born together. Several such pairs can be referred to as several sets of twins.


Posted 2013-01-23T21:47:29.317

Reputation: 31


By definition twins are two individuals (in the case of creatures) born at the same time.

I hear people say things like "We have two twins in our family and both are identical boys." What two twins actually means it that there are 2 sets of twins, or 4 individual people.

When there is only one set of twins to say two before the word twin is redundant. (Unless of course there are 2 sets of twins)

So to answer your question twins are a pair or two things/people/animals. So you'd say,"This is my brother Matt. We're twins." If it's just Matt then he would say, "Hi I'm Matt. I'm a twin. My brother's name is Max. He'll be here later"

Catherine Lucas

Posted 2013-01-23T21:47:29.317

Reputation: 49

1"What 'two twins' actually means it that there are 2 sets of twins, or 4 individual people."
If 'a twin' is one person, wouldn't 'two twins' be two people, both of whom are a twin? Which is different to 'one set of twins' or 'two sets of twins'?
– Ian Yates – 2017-07-21T09:53:24.310


Twin has a couple of meanings:

  • a set of two and only two identical things,

  • a set of two people who were born at the same time, or

  • a single person who is part of a twin

So twin in singular form will usually refer to a set of two, and two twins will mean four things or four people.

The third meaning is not very common unless someone is describing themselves or context heavily suggests the second meaning. But in that case, twins would refer to two people, not two sets of people.

Here is a very contrived example with four people (Alice, Bob, Charlie and Danielle):

Alice: Didn't I see someone exactly like you five minutes ago?

Bob: Yes, I'm a twin.

Alice: What's your brother's name?

Bob: My twin brother is named Charlie.

Alice: Hey Danielle, did you know Bob and Charlie are twins?

Danielle: No, I didn't.


Posted 2013-01-23T21:47:29.317

Reputation: 31 841


2-sets -of-twins. twins being a two people and a set being a group of two. So a set of twins is 4. And I said 2 sets of twins so that’s 8.


Posted 2013-01-23T21:47:29.317

Reputation: 1

I am afraid this is just incorrect. – David Siegel – 2019-04-21T19:01:11.107