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Cloth vs. Clothes

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  Marius Alza  —  Grammar Tips
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In the case of "cloth" and "clothes", we are not necessarily talking about a misspelling or about completely different senses of the words, but about the confusion often created between them. "Cloth" is often used as the singular form of the noun "clothes", which is something wrong and we're going to explain why.

Find out what "cloth" really means and whether you can use "cloth" and "clothes" with the same purpose. Keep an eye on the examples too, because we'll also tell you a good trick to remember everything a lot easier.

Cloth vs. Clothes

To make it clear from the beginning, "cloth" and "clothes" are not the same thing; the first isn't the singular form for the second. "Cloth" means something and "clothes" represents something else.

Both words are defective nouns. "Cloth" is actually uncountable, whereas "clothes" does not have a singular form. If you remember this clearly, you'll never confuse these words again.

When do we use "cloth"?

Coming to the actual definition of "cloth", this noun represents a piece of material, made from wool, cotton etc., used to make curtains, carpets, blankets, clothing articles etc. This noun does not have a plural form - if you want to use it in plural, you have to take the expression "more pieces of cloth".

Example 1: The cloth we used for your dress is soft and silky. - "cloth" refers, in this context, to a piece of material used for the confection of the dress.

Example 2: Take a cloth and wipe that dirt off your shoes. - as a secondary meaning, "cloth" can also define a small piece of material used to clean or dry something.

Trick to remember: A simple way to remember that "cloth" is always used at singular and refers to materials, not to items of clothing, is to associate it with the actual materials it might represent. Just like "cloth", neither "silk", nor "cotton"/"wool" etc. have forms for plural and they all refer to pieces and types of material.

When do we use "clothes"?

As mentioned above, "clothes" is also a defective noun, without a singular form. The word defines items worn on the body, such as dresses, trousers, shirts, skirts etc. Again, if you want to refer to "clothes" in singular, you have to use the expression "a/one article/piece of clothing".

Example: Before going to the church, my grandparents always used to put on their best clothes. - "clothes" defines items of clothing.

Conclusion

There is an important difference between the meanings of "cloth" and "clothes". They might seem the same noun, but they define distinct objects and you should remember them so you avoid confusions and doubts upon your message. After all, it is simple to remember - "clothes" refers to items you wear and is always used in plural, while "cloth" refers to a specific material and is only used in singular.

Cloth vs. Clothes

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2 Comments

  • "What's your favourite clothes?"
    If my answer is a green T-shirt, what should I say? "My favourite clothes are a green T-shirt."?
    Can anybody answer my question please? Thanks a lot. 
    LikeReplyReport4 months ago
  • Cloth is not only used in the singular. The plural of cloth is cloths, as you will see in any decent dictionary.
    LikeReplyReport 15 months ago

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