I always assumed that "a pair of shoes" followed in the footsteps of "a pair of scissors" or "a pair of jeans" and have a singular verb when used in a passive sentence. However, one of the English teachers at my school had a conflicting opinion. According to them, it shall accomodate a plural verb as the object is in plural, i.e. "shoes" is plural whereas "jeans" is singular itself. Another teacher had another different explanation, he said that a singular verb is used in writing whereas a plural verb has colloquial usage. So, here I am. Which one is correct and why?

P.S. I think the second teacher's explanation was BS because I have never heard anyone say, "A pair of jeans are a good present for me." or similar phrases.

Edit: Thanks, I got the answer. Basically, depends on context.

  • Here are a couple of instances of a pair of scissors are passed [from person to person]. As you've already discovered, conflicting opinion is central to this issue. Neither option is good, so wherever possible find some way of rephrasing so you don't have to make a choice of "plurality" for constructions like a pair of Xs. As with the couple is / are..., it's completely worthless to be told that one or the other is "correct" - whichever you go for, many people won't like it. Jul 29 at 16:13
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    I included the word only before pair of shoes to eliminate virtually all irrelevant "false positive matches" in this NGram chart for only pair of shoes were / was. As you can see, both forms have been used about equally often for at least the past century, with no significant trend towards favouring one plurality over the other. Use whichever makes most sense to you in any given context, and ignore the pedants. Jul 29 at 16:45

Maybe add some examples to illustrate your question. It will depend whether you are talking "a pair (singular) of shoes" or "shoes (plural)". "pair of scissors" and "pair of jeans" are different to the shoes in that makes no sense to take about 'a scissor' or 'a jean' but 'a shoe' is fine.

Ok: "This pair of jeans is blue." "These jeans are blue."

Not ok: "This jean is blue."

Ok: "This pair of scissors is blunt." "These scissors are blunt."

Not ok: "This scissor is blunt."

Ok: "This pair of shoes is black." "These shoes are black." "This shoe is black."

  • All you're saying here is that if the "pair" is included, the np is always singular - and if not, jeans, scissors, shoes are always plural. But that's not always true, nor does it address OP's specific question. Jul 29 at 16:39
  • i am specifically talking about a pair. neither pairs nor just jeans or shoes.
    – A5taroth
    Jul 29 at 16:47

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