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It might seem a trivial question but it occured to me whlie I was writing for an assignment.

I know if I put a pair of in subject place, I should use a singular verb e.g. A pair of shoes is there. Does it work the other way around too?

What subject suits this sentence, a singular or plural one:

.... is/are a pair of shoes.

This is confusing for me because on the one hand when you point at some shoes actually you're showing something that is originally a plural noun so it must be addressed as plural. On the other hand we want to use a pair of which is singular. So which is correct?

It's a pair of shoes.

They're a pair of shoes.

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  • Wow! I'm getting different answers. Well I'm not really in place to say which is right.
    – Yuri
    Jul 13 '16 at 21:02
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In your examples, both are correct, but it depends on what you are referring to

It is a pair of shoes.
It is a pair of two halves.

It is a pair

in these examples one is describing the "pair"edness of the objects.

They are a pair of shoes.
Those are a nice pair of melons.

two somethings are a pair

in these examples one is describing the objects as a "pair".

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  • Thank you Peter. Is this applicable to plural nouns that always are plural like jeans? I mean here again can we use both it's/they're a pair of jeans?
    – Yuri
    Jul 14 '16 at 9:46
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Many group nouns can take either take a singular or plural conjugation depending on the dialect of the speaker. These include things like band, group, and pair. In general, BE prefers a plural form for these nouns and AmE a singular form.

EDIT: Here's some data from the GloWbE corpus for usage frequencies.

"Pair are":

Pair are

"Pair is":

Pair is

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  • So both sentences are right? It's/They're a pair of shoes.
    – Yuri
    Jul 13 '16 at 18:27
  • Yes, essentially. I'd suggest you pick the one that corresponds to the variety of English you're learning, like AmE or BE, and stick to using it.
    – eijen
    Jul 13 '16 at 21:49
  • What about AusE and NZE?
    – 3kstc
    Jul 14 '16 at 6:14
  • @3kstc AusE and NZE "pair is" FREQ / SIZE (M) / PER MIL - AUS 81 / 148.2 / 0.55 | NZ 56 / 81.4 / 0.69. "Pair are" : AUS 53 / 148.2 / 0.36 | NZ 48 / 81.4 / 0.59. Queries: "pair is", "pair are" - select Frequency to see results.
    – eijen
    Jul 15 '16 at 0:00
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It is a pair of shoes.

They are shoes.

Grammatically a pair is singular.

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