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I am learning Spanish with Collins Easy Learning Spanish. It gives the follow example:

The stairs are over there. = Las escaleras están allí.

The stairs are over there, to your right. = La escalera está allí, a su derecha.

Why does one use the plural form (están) and the other the singular form (está)? I thought stairs would have to be in the plural, so shouldn't it always be están?

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    As both answers posted so far point, escalera is as correct as escaleras, hence la escalera está and las escaleras están. Which one to choose is a matter of taste (and local variations) rather than correction. – Rafael May 22 '16 at 19:57
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Both work fine. Escalera can be used in the singular — equivalent to staircase— or the plural —equivalent to stairs

escalera (DRAE 23.ª ed.)
1. f. Conjunto de peldaños o escalones que enlazan dos planos a distinto nivel en una construcción o terreno, y que sirven para subir y bajar. U. t. en pl. con el mismo significado que en sing.

That note at the end of the definition says "used also in the plural with the same meaning as in the singular".

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Escalera is one of those annoying words that are used as a singular or a plural noun. See DRAE:

  1. f. Conjunto de peldaños o escalones que enlazan dos planos a distinto nivel en una construcción o terreno, y que sirven para subir y bajar. U. t. en pl. con el mismo significado que en sing.
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