Word Confusion: Pair vs Pare vs Pear

Posted January 11, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Revised as of 19 February 2018

I do wonder at times at the state of our educational system. I found it humiliating (and terrifying) that I was required to take a bonehead English course in college and that the teacher spent weeks examining and explaining the difference between word groups of homonyms and homophones. Didn’t anyone learn this in high school?

Years later, I’m still shocked at how many people are putting images up on the Internet confusing words like pair, pare, and pear.

I suppose that men may get confused over a woman’s arse, that it has the shape of a pear, but then to tag it as pair or even pare? *shakes head sadly with rueful laugh* How incredibly idiotic. I felt quite Hannibal Lecterish when I typed pare into Google and turned up pairs of amazing chests. Simply using pare had me imagining some serial killer paring the flesh from those breasts…egods!!!

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end. Consider sharing this Word Confusion with friends by tweeting it.

Pair Pare Pear
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

Van Gogh's oil on canvas of a pair of battered boots

“A Pair of Shoes, My Dream” by Vincent van Gogh is in the public domain and available via Wikimedia Commons.

A pair of used and abused black boots.

A apple partially pared

“Apple Fruit Peeled” by Lynn Greyling is in the public domain, via PublicDomainPictures.net.

To remove an apple’s skin, one must pare.

A pair of pears hanging in a tree

“Pears” by Keith Weller (USDA, Image Number K5299-1) is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

There’s this dessert that needs a pair of pears pared.

Part of Grammar:
Adjective; Noun; Verb, intransitive & transitive

Noun plural and third person present verb: pairs
Past tense or past participle: paired
Gerund or present participle: pairing

Verb, transitive

Third person present verb: pares
Past tense or past participle: pared
Gerund or present participle: paring

Plural for the noun: pears
[French] Noting any even number, especially in roulette

A set of two things used together or regarded as a unit

  • An article or object consisting of two joined or corresponding parts not used separately
  • Two playing cards of the same denomination
  • Two people related in some way or considered together
  • The second member of a pair in relation to the first
  • A mated couple of animals
  • Two horses harnessed side by side
  • Either or both of two members of a legislative assembly on opposite sides who absent themselves from voting by mutual arrangement, leaving the relative position of the parties unaffected

[Chiefly dialect] A set or series of small objects (as beads)

Verb, intransitive:
Join or connect to form a pair

  • [Of animals] Mate
  • [Pair off/up] Form a couple

Verb, transitive:
Join or connect to form a pair

  • Give (a member of a legislative assembly) another member as a pair, to allow both to absent themselves from a vote without affecting the result
Trim (something) by cutting away its outer edges.

  • Cut off the outer skin of (something)
  • Reduce (something) in size, extent, quantity, or number, usually in a number of small successive stages
A yellowish- or brownish-green edible fruit that is typically narrow at the stalk and wider toward the base, with sweet, slightly gritty flesh

[Pyrus in the family Rosaceae] the Eurasian tree that bears the pear

  • Several species and hybrids, in particular Pyrus communis
They were well-paired.

Pairwise, those dogs are a good choice for breeding.

a pair of gloves

a pair of jeans

I have a pair of jacks.

Those two are quite the pair.

McKlellan’s is a company run by a pair of brothers.

Every naughty thing the pair of them did made their faces look worse.

Students will work alone or in pairs.

Each course member tries to persuade his pair of the merits of his model.

I hear that Johannson has nine breeding pairs of birds.

We can always do with an extra pair of hands.

Whoa, he sure showed a clear pair of heels!

I sure wish Frank would grow a pair!

Kady bought a matched pair for his carriage.

Verb, intransitive:
They bought a rooster to pair with the hen.

Rachel has paired up with Tommy.

Couples were paired off for the next dance.

Verb, transitive:
There should be a cardigan paired with a matching skirt.

An absent member on one side is to be paired with an absentee on the other.

Carlo pared his thumbnails with his knife.

All you have to do is pare off the rind using a peeler.

Union leaders publicly pared down their demands.

We pared costs by doing our own cleaning.

Thomasina pared away the rotten bits and cut the rest up for stew.

Bartlett pears are a common fruit in the produce section at the grocer’s.

The Anjou pears are beautiful this year.

There’s this great dessert with pears and chocolate.

We put in a pear tree this year.

Yeah, things have gone pear-shaped.

She has a figure like a pear.

Adjective: paired, pairwise, unpaired, well-paired
Adverb: pairwise
Adjective: pareable, unpared
Noun: parer, paring
Adjective: pearlike
History of the Word:
Middle English (1250-1300) from the Old French paire, from the Latin paria meaning equal things; it’s a neuter plural of par meaning equal.

Formerly phrases such as a pair of gloves were expressed without of, as in a pair gloves.

Middle English (1275-1325) from the Old French parer meaning adorn, prepare. Also peel or trim from the Latin parare meaning prepare. Old English (before 1000) pere or peru is related to the Dutch peer, which is from the Latin pirum.

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C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

Pinterest Photo Credits

Ginger Kauffman’s post on “Pairing Pears” has the perfect example of this word confusion with A pair of pared pears at her blog, Three Minutes to Nine.

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