Collective nouns – singular or plural verbs?

Collective nouns have a singular form, but refer to more than one person or item — jury, team, family.

Traditionally, a collective noun, when regarded as a single entity, was treated as singular.

The tax office is revising its management strategy.

But this rule leads to some clumsy constructions.

None of us is in a position to judge.

Singular or plural depending on the context

Some grammar experts now say that collective nouns can take either a singular or plural verb depending on the context. So you could treat a collective noun as singular if it referred to a single entity and plural if it referred to a number of individuals. Whichever form you choose, be consistent within the same document.

The family is united in its disapproval.

The staff are giving each other presents.

Followed by a plural pronoun

I often see writers using the singular verb after the collective noun, but then switching to the plural pronoun, they.

The company provides training. They facilitate courses nationwide.

While this is not grammatically correct, I think we increasingly accept this usage.

Online grammar programs

If you want to learn more about grammar, register for one of Mary’s online grammar courses at www.onlinewritingtraining.com.au

 
 

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