A pair of x is/are

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In English writing, which is more correct?

The pair of butterflies are alive.
The pair of butterflies is alive.

MS Word tells me the second is correct, but I'm not trying to describe the pair, I'm trying to describe the butterflies. I would obviously use the second form if I were trying to describe the pair.
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The butterflies of which the pair consists are alive.
You're welcome.
I would think 'are' is correct. You are describing the group of butterflies that happens to be a pair (two).
The two butterflies are alive.
The butterflies of where which there are two are alive?
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'where' should be 'which':
The butterflies - of which there are two - are alive.
Thanks firedraco, I prefer this form. It's also shorter and I'm limited on space X)
How about; the pair of trousers is dirty?
@Grey Wolf
The difference is that you're describing the state of the pair whereas LB is describing the state of the butterflies, which happen to be in a pair. You're describing the group, LB is describing the members of the group.

Why is it a "pair of trousers", anyway? I know it has two legs, but they're referred to as "a trouser-leg" or just "a leg", they're never called just "a trouser".
@Grey Wolf it's the wrong trousers!
@seehisname same thing with scissors and pants. What's a scissor? A pant? You need to catch your breath, you're panting after pushing that scissor lift.
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LB wrote:

Why do you call me this?
L B wrote:
MS Word tells me the second is correct,

I'm pretty sure MS Word is right. The preposition "of" indicates the subject is the pair, and not the butterflies. It's as if you were saying "The axe of fire is deadly." Here, 'deadly' does not describe the fire, it's describing the axe.

(EDIT: another, better, example would be "The bottles of beer are full". Where we are describing the bottles and not the beer. Also sorry about "the axe of fire" nonsense.. I just got done playing Skyrim.)

but I'm not trying to describe the pair

Then you should not be making the subject the pair. "The two butterflies are alive" or simply "The butterflies are alive" both accomplish the same meaning while being grammatically correct.


Case in point, see firedraco's reply. He contradicted himself without realizing it:

firedraco wrote:
I would think 'are' is correct. You are describing the group of butterflies that happens to be a pair (two)

Note he said "the group of butterflies that happens"

The plural form here indicates the object is singular, which means the object is the group, not the butterflies.

If he were [properly] describing the butterflies he would have said "happen" (singular). But I'm not sure that would be grammatically correct.
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Gramatically, a pair... is.

But a pair is not alive. Butterflies are alive.

Hence, the construction "a pair of butterflies is/are alive" is not correct. Find a different way to say it.

"The butterflies are alive."
"Two butterflies are alive."
"Both butterflies in the pair are alive."

Ah, I just read what Disch wrote and realized I'm writing the same thing. Alas. He's right, of course. So, count this as a Disch + 1 post.
OK, I've run it through my head several times and I've gotten it to make sense to myself. I'll use "is" instead of "are".

Thanks everyone!
Well... "is" is still wrong because the pair is not alive. Your sentence just needs to be restructured so you're talking about the actual butterflies and not about the pair.
Ah, whoops - I should have mentioned, the actual text this topic is based on is
"[...] the first pair of stanzas is about [...]"
Is that still wrong?
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Yes, for the same reason. The pair is not about X, the stanzas are about X. You need to restructure so the object is the stanzas, not the pair.

The best way to do this, IMO is just to get rid of 'pair' entirely:
"The first two stanzas are about ..."

It's difficult to work 'pair' into the sentence without it becoming the object or sounding really unnatural:

"The first stanzas in a pair are about..." <- unnatural
Hm. I guess I'll have to suffice with that - the reason I used 'pair' in the first place was because the use of pairs in the poem was symbolic, and I was trying to show that.
"The paired stanzas are about..." <- ??
Side line; add punctuation to make this make sense.
Ann while Bob had had had had had had had had had had had a better effect on the teacher
James, while Jonh had had "had," had had "had had." "Had had" had had a better effect on the teacher.

Memorized by mistake after seeing the wikipedia article on it months ago.
(Yes that's the URL and article name)
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