Commonly Confused Words: Pair vs. Pare vs. Pear

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What does each word mean?

A pair is a set of two. If you pair two things, it means you put them together.

Here is pair used in some example sentences:

  • They bride and groom make a wonderful pair.
  • I need to pack a spare pair of socks.
  • Can you pair the knives with the forks?

Look up pair in the Spellzone dictionary.  

If you pare something, it means you trim it.

Here is pare used in some example sentences:

  • He pared down the overgrown plant.
  • This essay is too long – you need to pare down some words.  
  • Use a knife to pare away the skin from the pear.

Look up pare in the Spellzone dictionary.  

A pear is a type of fruit.

Here is pear used in some example sentences:

  • Do you prefer apples or pears?
  • They used the pears from the orchard to make perry.
  • Use a knife to pare away the skin from the pear.

Look up pear in the Spellzone dictionary.


Where does each word come from?

Pair entered English via the Old French ‘paire’ in the mid-thirteenth century. It comes from the Medieval Latin ‘paria’ meaning ‘equals’. It was originally used to describe a set of two things, but from the late-fourteenth century its meaning evolved to describe couples and also tools that are made up of two parts such as ‘spectacles’ or ‘shears’. The word has been used as verb since around 1600 and the phrases ‘to pair off’ and ‘to pair up’ date to 1783 and 1896 respectively.

Pare comes from the Old French ‘parer’ meaning ‘arrange, prepare, trim, or adorn’, from the Latin ‘parare’. The word has been used in English in relation to peeling fruit or cutting bread since around 1300, and more generally to mean ‘trim’ since the late-fourteenth century. The phrase ‘pare down’ dates to the late-fifteenth century.

Pears have been cultivated for over three thousand years. The word comes from the Middle English ‘pere’.


Are there any tricks to help remember the difference these words?

  • Try using all three words in one sentence to help you remember their meanings: I pare a pair of pears.
  • To pare fruit is to prepare it for eating – think of the link between these two words to help you remember what pare means.
  • Pear has the word pea in it which is another type of food. If you’re trying the food, it needs a pea in it.

 

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22 Sep 2022
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