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How would a native speaker understand this sentence:

I have bought 2 socks.

A pair of socks is quite obvious, 2 pairs of socks also, but what with 2 socks? 2 socks are a pair, but since you can't buy single socks, this 2 in the sentence could be interpreted as carrying the information that 2 pairs of socks were bought.

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    Buy one sock and get one for free! Jan 24, 2013 at 3:28

2 Answers 2

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A sock is an individual item of clothing. To buy two of them would thus indicate that you had bought, well, two socks—but these socks might not pair with each other; instead, they might be halves of different pairs. Thus, unless there was context that might suggest otherwise, I (and presumably most native speakers of English) would conclude that you had bought two individual items of clothing.

And yes, you can buy individual socks if you want.

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    maybe there's a business opportunity for single sock by the way
    – JCLL
    Jan 23, 2013 at 22:07
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Most (then ones I know) native speakers would interpret this as a slip of the tongue, and would assume you meant 2 pairs of socks.

This may also be interpreted as humorous, depending on the context of the sentence.

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