Quite recently, an international donut franchise announced, through a social media post, a local promotion where people can get two boxes of donuts for PHP 500.00 (USD 9.88) and advertised it with “get two dozens of donuts for only PHP 500.00. In the comment section of their social media page, several people engaged in argument whether “two dozens of donuts” is correct or not. Which brings the question: if you have two boxes with twelve donuts each, do you say you have “two dozen donuts” or “two dozens of donuts”?
On the same comment thread, several people pointed out that dozen is a collective noun, which means “a set of twelve” (and this is correct), and like other collective nouns, you can add a number before it to pluralize it (like two pairs of shoes, seven teams of competitors). Initially, I agreed with this argument. At the same time, after doing further readings on the usage of the word dozen, I found out that the word has two different plural forms depending on the context.
You can refer to a group of approximately twelve things or people as a dozen. You can refer to a group of approximately six things or people as half a dozen. The plural form, however, is still dozen when after a number or after a word or expression referring to a number, such as several or a few. So you say “three dozen banana,” “several dozen apples,” and “a few dozen people.” Therefore, the correct expression should have been “two dozen donuts” instead of “two dozens of donuts.” When, then, do we use dozens?
The word dozens refer to a large, indefinite number of people or things, such as “The storm devastated dozens of homes” and “Dozens of people attended the rally to oust the current president.” This expression no longer refers to a set of twelve, rather, to a group of people or things with an unspecified number of members, in the same way that we say “hundreds of people went on strike.” So to say “two dozens of donuts” is technically incorrect.
To summarize, use the word dozen after a number or an expression referring to a number, and use dozens when referring to a group with an unspecified number.