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to say that collective nouns take the singular verb?

(27 Posts)
kawliga Sun 15-Feb-15 17:31:37

The team is going, not the team are going
The army is fighting, not the army are fighting
Tesco is shite, not Tesco are shite
Labour is winning the election, not Labour are winning the election
England is great at rugby, not England are great at Rugby
Man United is likely to win, not Man United are likely to win
The herd is migrating, not the herd are migrating

Grammatical errors give me heart palpitations and sleepless nights. Is this error becoming so commonplace now, that soon it will be considered correct grammar to use the plural verb with collective nouns shock?

museumum Sun 15-Feb-15 17:34:11

The one I can't do "right" is staff. "The staff is..." As my autocorrect wants feels dehumanising to me. I have to use "the staff are...".

Andrewofgg Sun 15-Feb-15 17:34:23

If all the pedants in the world were laid end to end they would not reach a conclusion!

ghostyslovesheep Sun 15-Feb-15 17:37:10

there is a special topic for this on MN you know

Koalafications Sun 15-Feb-15 17:38:33

Oh this is too confusing. <my little brain hurts>

RubbishRobotFromTheDawnOfTime Sun 15-Feb-15 17:39:07

I disagree. I think both ways are correct; you just have to make sure you're consistent with which one you're using.

EveBoswell Sun 15-Feb-15 17:40:15

You are quite right, OP. It's not what the noun means but what kind of word it is. There's one team so it's a singular noun so takes a singular verb. Same with the others. One army is being talked about. Tesco is one company; Labour is the name of one political party. There's only one England and we're talking about one herd.

Singular verbs all round.

SconeRhymesWithGone Sun 15-Feb-15 17:41:44

OP, sorry, but you are misguided to take such a hardline and prescriptive view of this matter.

Pretty much all you need to know is right here:

PoppyAmex Sun 15-Feb-15 17:43:28

OP, I think you're smashing!

I'm not an English native speaker and I hate it when people use the plural; it sounds horribly wrong to me.

You are absolutely right.

Mandatorymongoose Sun 15-Feb-15 17:44:35

Museumum I have the same issue with staff. I hate it. I can't use it as a singular (even though I know it is) because it just feels wrong. The staff is legion.

SconeRhymesWithGone Sun 15-Feb-15 17:45:26

Sorry, but OP is not right.

FromSeaToShining Sun 15-Feb-15 17:45:43

In the U.S., collective nouns always take the singular. But in the U.K., the plural has been used for a very long time. It is not a new "error" that has recently taken hold but a fairly commonplace and longstanding usage.

Now I'm wondering how native English speakers in places other than the U.S. and U.K. handle this issue.

fuckmeblindiknowthatcat Sun 15-Feb-15 17:46:14

Man U is unlikely to win. HTH wink

SconeRhymesWithGone Sun 15-Feb-15 17:49:07

To clarify, in the examples given by OP, the singular verb is appropriate, but there are many instances in which a collective noun properly takes a plural verb and plural pronouns.

SconeRhymesWithGone Sun 15-Feb-15 17:51:23

Not true, FromSea. In AmE, there is a decided preference for the singular, but it is not a hard and fast rule. It depends on the context and meaning. (I am American, btw.)

kawliga Sun 15-Feb-15 17:53:39

Ah, thank you to those who have pointed the way to pedants corner. I will go and spend a few happy hours there.

I am of course aware that when most people use the 'wrong' spelling or grammar, it becomes 'correct' because it's silly to describe it as 'wrong' if most people say it.

FromSeaToShining Sun 15-Feb-15 17:58:15

I'm American too. Collective nouns like team or family certainly take the singular in U.S. English. All the examples in the OP would use singular verbs in the U.S., whereas they wouldn't necessarily (depending on the speaker) in the U.K.

JudgeRinderSays Sun 15-Feb-15 18:00:14

collective nouns take the singular

SconeRhymesWithGone Sun 15-Feb-15 18:12:45

collective nouns take the singular

What about "police"?

SconeRhymesWithGone Sun 15-Feb-15 18:14:05

SconeRhymesWithGone Sun 15-Feb-15 18:21:43


My family are farmers.

My family are constantly fighting.

Both of these sentences are grammatically correct in AmE.

RubbishRobotFromTheDawnOfTime Sun 15-Feb-15 18:22:05

That link says what I said smile

FromSeaToShining Sun 15-Feb-15 18:47:18

Good point about police, Scone. I wouldn't say "My family are" in the examples you gave, though. I would rephrase the first sentence completely and use a singular verb in the second.

The strong preference for singular verbs with collective nouns in U.S. English certainly holds. (I should know better than to say "always" about anything linguistically related!) It is not the same in U.K. English. I feel fairly confident that no native speaker of English would say, "England are a beautiful place." But if a U.K. native is referring to the English football team, he/she may well use a plural verb because "England" in this case is understood as a collective.

OTOH, we say the United States is which doesn't make much sense grammatically, though it probably reflects a kind of intuitive feeling that it is being used collectively. In other languages (at least those I happen to know), "the United States of America" as a phrase tends to be plural and uses plural verbs.

Seriouslyffs Sun 15-Feb-15 18:48:26

There's lots of posts on this. grin

borisgudanov Sun 15-Feb-15 18:49:36

Hmm. With you OP except on the teams, which I treat as plural. "England are shite" (cf. "England is a fine nation").

For some reason also the police seem to be plural. (Cf. Ger. "Die Polizei ist motiviert", sing.)

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