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  1. My glasses (was/were) lying on the table.
  2. My trousers (is/are) torn.
  3. (This/These) binoculars (was/were) gifted to me.

I know they're in plural form, but plural nouns such as rickets, measles are disease names, but they take singular verb.

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    Some words, such as trousers, glasses, scissors, are semantically singular, but syntactically plural. Others, such as rickets and measles, are semantically and syntactically singular. I suspect you may just have to learn these on a case-by-case basis. But many of the first group can be identified because they're often used in expressions like a pair of [glasses, trousers, scissors]. Sep 17, 2017 at 14:59
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    No! I said trousers, glasses, scissors, are semantically singular (they mean "a single thing"), but syntactically plural (we use the plural verb form with them). So your sentences should be My glasses were lying on the table, My trousers are torn, These binoculars were gifted to me. Note that in normal conversational contexts we'd usually say given, not gifted in the last one. Sep 17, 2017 at 15:14
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    "Measles" can be singlar or plural. The OED says "usually" singular. Collins says "singular or plural". It's easy to find recent examples of it taking the plural. E.g. Leslie DeLong & Nancy Buckhart, General and Oral Pathology for the Dental Hygienist (2007): "German measles are mostly commonly found in children or adults who have not been vaccinated or exposed...".
    – rjpond
    Sep 17, 2017 at 17:22
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    @Adam: When I wrote you may just have to learn these on a case-by-case basis in my first comment I half-expected / hoped someone would refute me there by setting out some general principles that might be useful (my point about pair doesn't help unless you already know the usage for a given word). I wasn't really expecting to be sidetracked by claims that measles isn't always syntactically singular (the full OED gives 15 cites for the "infectious disease" sense, none of which are "plural" usages). Diseases in general may be a relevant "syntax category" here, I don't know. Sep 19, 2017 at 14:34
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    @Adam: Pouring petrol on the flames here, I'm tempted to suggest there is no possible means to cover all usages in a small number of categories. Not that I'm wild about that usage there - but if it's generally considered "unacceptable", that is news to me! :) Sep 19, 2017 at 16:03

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I'm going to shamelessly repurpose the comments to answer this question:

(FumbleFingers) Some words, such as trousers, glasses, scissors, are semantically singular, but syntactically plural. Others, such as rickets and measles, are semantically and syntactically singular. I suspect you may just have to learn these on a case-by-case basis. But many of the first group can be identified because they're often used in expressions like a pair of [glasses, trousers, scissors]. So your sentences should be:

My glasses were lying on the table

My trousers are torn

These binoculars were gifted to me

Side note:

(rjpond) "Measles" (and other diseases) can be singular or plural. The OED says "usually" singular. Collins says "singular or plural". It's easy to find recent examples of it taking the plural. E.g. Leslie DeLong & Nancy Buckhart, General and Oral Pathology for the Dental Hygienist (2007): "German measles are mostly commonly found in children or adults who have not been vaccinated or exposed...".

Side note #2: FumbleFingers says that "these binoculars were given to me" is more common than "these binoculars were gifted to me". I actually prefer to use "to gift" as a verb where appropriate, so it's likely just personal choice.

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  • Is the use of given and gifted not dependant on context? In the original example it is clear they were gifted so now they belong to a new owner. However given could mean issued/lent and should be returned at a latter date." we were given the keys to the boss's car" Hence the use of "given" does not specify ownership, just that the object was not "acquired" by yourself.
    – Brad
    Mar 19, 2021 at 6:29

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