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  1. #1
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    Default was/were: the government

    British English (BE) / American English (AE) argument over 'was and 'were' in the past simple.

    Example:

    The government was wrong to cut benefits. [BE.]

    The government were wrong to cut benefits. [AE, allegedly.]

    I am positive that BE is correct, however, I have a friend from Sweden who was told by an AE teacher that 'were' is correct in this instance as a government is made up of many individuals. My argument is that 'the government' is a singular noun referred to in the past simple, hence 'was' is right.

    Another grey (gray?) area giving me gray (grey?) hair!

    Your thoughts would be most appreciated.

    Regards

    atm

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: was/were: the government

    It's a gre/ay area, but the general tendency is for AE speakers to use the singular and BE speakers to use the plural with collective nouns. I'd say both are right and would use the plural personally.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: was/were: the government

    Hi, Atm,
    I think was is peferred on both sides of the pond. I mean in this sentence.
    Cheers

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    Default Re: was/were: the government

    Yeah!
    I have seen smth like Metallica are ....

  5. #5
    mykwyner is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: was/were: the government

    To my American ear, the most noticible difference in written BrE is the use of plural verbs with collective nouns.

    Jaguar have designed a new fuel injection system. (BrE)
    General Motors has designed five new automobiles. (AE)

    Although "Jaguar" is singular, the name means a group of people, (the cat couldn't design a car) so it is treated like a plural subject with the words "The engineers at..." elided.

    "General Motors" has the appearance of a plural, but it is the name of a single entity, so Americans treat it as a singular.

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    Default Re: was/were: the government

    But it is inconsistent with the first post, isn't it?
    Last edited by thebossfan; 22-Oct-2006 at 10:08.

  7. #7
    mykwyner is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: was/were: the government

    Yes, atm had his descriptions of BrE and AE reversed.

  8. #8
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: was/were: the government

    Quote Originally Posted by Humble View Post
    Hi, Atm,
    I think was is peferred on both sides of the pond. I mean in this sentence.
    Cheers
    Have a look here at the BBC- they regularly use the plural: BBC - Search results for government are
    Example: BBC - collective - Government Support for Indie labels?

  9. #9
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    Default Re: was/were: the government

    Thank you, chums. I was wrong, you were right.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: was/were: the government

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    Have a look here at the BBC- they regularly use the plural:
    Then I must be mistaken, sorry.

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