“I need some new clothes for the summer.” (Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s)

If the word, clothes, is plural, don’t you include a skirt into the clothes category? Can the speaker have in his mind for something singular, e.g.skirt; or just plural, e.g. pants, trousers?

  • Isn't this a little bit like asking if "I see some horses" means I only see couples of horses, excluding any individual ones? Clothes is the plural of an individual item of clothing. An individual item of clothing includes a skirt, but also a pair of pants. – oerkelens Oct 6 '14 at 13:56

Clothes is plural because it includes plural items of clothing, which may be individually expressible as either singular or plural. Whether your shopping list has a) a skirt, a blouse, a hat and a raincoat, or b) a pair of socks, a scarf and a pair of slacks, each set may be referred to as clothes.

But if all you are buying is a skirt you don't say you need new clothes; you say you need a new skirt.


If the speaker were thinking of purchasing only one single item, they would probably name that specific item instead of saying "some (new) clothes"; they might, for example, say "I need a new skirt for the summer".

With the given sentence, it's most likely the speaker has in mind purchasing multiple items in order to have either a complete outfit, or a variety of choices: they might buy 3 or 4 skirts, or a pair of pants, and a shirt or two, and some sandals; all of which would be probably lighter in both weight and color than "normal" clothes, in order to be appropriate for summer.

So a skirt definitely falls into the "clothes" category, but I wouldn't think of just one skirt as "some clothes" in that situation.


You could also say in singular form: "I need to buy a new piece of clothing" if you have not decided what type of clothing you want to buy.



Think of clothes as the plural of cloth. A simple wrap has other uses, but anything we wear is made of more than one piece of cloth sewn together.

If you want to go shopping but have no clear idea what you want to buy, you would say "I need some new clothes". Maybe you will buy more than one. If you have a definite plan, you say " I need a new skirt / pants / hat"

  • 3
    Hm. You're implying that, since a T-shirt is made up of two parts of cloth sewn together, you can refer to a single T-shirt as "clothes". This is not the case however. – Mr Lister Oct 5 '14 at 6:34
  • 3
    But the plural of "cloth" is "cloths". – David Richerby Oct 5 '14 at 10:45

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