pair vs. pare vs. pear

What is the difference between pair, pare, and pear?

These three words are all pronounced the same way: /pɛər/.
The most commonly used term, pair, is typically a noun meaning “two of the same or similar people or things,” though it can also function as a verb meaning “to form, belong to, or separate into a pair,” or “to complement or complete.” For example:
  • “You two are just a pair of knuckleheads.”
  • “I need to buy a new pair of pants.”
  • “I want you all to pair off and discuss the themes of the chapter.”
  • “Chocolate pairs well with salty and spicy flavors.”
The word pare is used in a much narrower way. It is only ever a verb meaning “to remove the outer covering, skin, edge, or part (of something)” or, by extension, “to reduce or trim in quantity or size.” For example:
  • “You need to pare your nails; they’ve become too long and sharp.”
  • “She pared the apple with her pocket knife.”
  • “We’re going to need to pare down our expenses if we want to survive next year.”
Finally, the word pear simply refers to a sweet, juicy fruit with a globular base that tapers toward the stem, as in:
  • “I generally don’t like pears unless they are perfectly ripe.”

Spelling Tricks and Tips

Pare is much less commonly used in everyday speech and writing, which can lead some writers to mistakenly use the spelling pair in its place. If you need a trick to remember the correct spelling, keep in mind that when you pare something, you prepare it in some way. If you are describing two of something, remember that pair has a pair of vowels in the middle of the word—A and I. You can distinguish this from pear, because you eat pears, so it is spelled with the digraph EA.
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