pants versus trousers (American usage only)

Chasint

Senior Member
English - England
Hello

I'm asking for opinions from natives of the USA and Canada.

In Britain many of us imagine that you never use the word 'trousers' and instead always say 'pants'. How true is this?

Could you North Americans say which you use and when.

Thanks
 
  • lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    "Pants" is the general term for all two-legged garments you shove your lower body into. (Well, except for tights, and those shouldn't be worn outside the house anyway.)

    "Trousers" names a kind of pants. It's a general term for nice pants - pants you could wear to the symphony or to court or to a bat mitzvah. It also names the pants of any suit or uniform. It would also be the term for haute couture pants.
     

    Hau Ruck

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Since you are asking about common usage, I'll give an answer in that perspective.

    I've never once heard, nor ever heard any of my friends, family or associates, use the word "trousers" when being serious.

    It just sounds old-fashioned in this country, or of course, British.

    The only time I've heard someone say "trousers" would be when they are either imitating a British accent or talking about a different time.

    Mind you, this is my Midwestern, AmE opinion; it's only that. I've lived all over the Midwest, East Coast and South. I can't attest much to the wording that people to the West use. They are often quite different. :)
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    In Britain many of us imagine that you never use the word 'trousers' and instead always say 'pants'. How true is this?
    Ah, those stereotypes
    "Pants" is the general term for all two-legged garments you shove your lower body into. (Well, except for tights, and those shouldn't be worn outside the house anyway.)

    "Trousers" names a kind of pants. It's a general term for nice pants - pants you could wear to the symphony or to court or to a bat mitzvah. It also names the pants of any suit or uniform. It would also be the term for haute couture pants.
    Indeed.

    When I was enduring U.S. Marine Corps Boot Camp, it was drilled into us relentlessly to never, ever say "pants" when referring to uniform trousers.

    Probably as a result, I get a chill if I should accidentally say "pants." :eek:
     
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    yuechu

    Senior Member
    Canada, English
    My grandmother (born in Canada) used to say "trousers" once in a while, if I'm not mistaken. She's the only person I've heard say it though, apart from people from non-Canadian Commonwealth countries (since Canada seems almost always to be the exception in this cultural/linguistic sphere!).
     

    Hau Ruck

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    My grandmother (born in Canada) used to say "trousers" once in a while, if I'm not mistaken. She's the only person I've heard say it though, apart from people from non-Canadian Commonwealth countries (since Canada seems almost always to be the exception in this cultural/linguistic sphere!).

    Your grandmother (so not in 3 generations) and you've not heard it used in your daily life, since?
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    A reminder of our topic:
    I'm asking for opinions from natives of the USA and Canada.

    In Britain many of us imagine that you never use the word 'trousers' and instead always say 'pants'. How true is this?

    Could you North Americans say which you use and when.

     
    Last edited:

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    I might specify "jeans" or "slacks," but normally I just say "pants." The only specific usage I recall regarding Navy uniforms was "bell-bottoms" for the pants worn with our crackerjacks; I don't recall any insistence on referring to uniform items as "trousers."
     
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