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  1. #1
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    subject verb agreement for collective nouns

    Hello...

    Which is correct between the two sentences that follow, in terms of subject verb agreement:

    1. The class of students attend the different performances of their schoolmates.

    2. The class of students attends the different performances of their schoolmates.

    I know that number 2 is correct.

    My son's teacher insists otherwise, saying that the word "their" further down the sentence makes the "class" plural.

    I just want to know that what I know is still right. We're running out to the "better" teachers here since they get pirated off to the West.

    Thanks in advance....

    S.

  2. #2
    Barb_D's Avatar
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    Re: subject verb agreement for collective nouns

    Hi docmother,
    There's a problem with the naturalness of the sentence in the first place. You don't usually speak of a "class of students" the way you do a "herd of elephants" or a "flock of seagulls." I would say either simply the "The class" or "The students in the class."

    I have no problem with "The class attends... their schoolmates" even though it switches from a singular noun/verb to "their." However, I also know that Americans, more than others, use a singular verb for nouns like "company" or "staff."

    I'm not sure this actually helped you, but I hope it didn't make things worse.

    [a writer, not a teacher]

  3. #3
    albertino is offline Senior Member
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    Re: subject verb agreement for collective nouns

    Quote Originally Posted by docmother View Post
    Hello...

    Which is correct between the two sentences that follow, in terms of subject verb agreement:

    1. The class of students attend the different performances of their schoolmates.

    2. The class of students attends the different performances of their schoolmates.

    I know that number 2 is correct.

    My son's teacher insists otherwise, saying that the word "their" further down the sentence makes the "class" plural.

    I just want to know that what I know is still right. We're running out to the "better" teachers here since they get pirated off to the West.

    Thanks in advance....

    S.
    Disclaimer:I'm not a teacher.
    Let's us forget about the clumsiness of the sentence structure and focus our attention on the grammatical problem.
    As we're aware, some nouns known as "collective nouns" refer to a collection of persons, animals or things. When standing alone, these nouns are usually singular unless the emphasis is on the individuals making up the collection. However, in a "collective noun + of-phrase" structure like "the class of students" in the enquirer's example , or "a pack of wolves", the verb agrees in number with its subject, and not with a noun or a pronoun in the of-phrase that follows the subject. So, #2 is correct. And the pronoun "their" refers to its antecedent "students." That's what my understanding in grammatical perspective.

    BTW: Dear Docmother, for your son's sake, never challenge the teacher with this unless .... : p
    Last edited by albertino; 03-Aug-2007 at 06:42.

  4. #4
    RonBee's Avatar
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    Re: subject verb agreement for collective nouns

    I agree with both Barb_D and albertino. As Barb_D noted, the test presents you with sentences that do not occur in real life. Since a class is a group of students and that is well understood, "nobody" says "a class of students". Instead:
    1. The students attend the various (not "different") performances of their schoolmates.

    2. The class attends the various performances of the students.
    You are right, and your son's teacher is wrong. However, for purposes of his grade it is probably best that he pretend to agree with the teacher. (Maybe he will get a better teacher next year, or maybe you can do the teaching, since you seem to know more than his teacher.)

    You say that you are running out of the better teachers there because they are running out on you. Where do they go? (What countries?) Why do they leave? (Higher pay elsewhere?)

    ~R

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    melissac is offline Newbie
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    Re: subject verb agreement for collective nouns

    I know this is an old thread, but I came across it and had to set the record straight.

    I am an English teacher and have to say the teacher is correct, and here is the rule:

    The subject "class" is a collective noun which can be either singular or plural depending on the context. In this case because the students are going to different performances, they are to be considered as individuals and not as a collective unit. I think, to defend the teacher somewhat, she was placing emphasis on the different performances part, and here the sentence could be more clear because one could say that the class was going all together to each of the different performances, but I think the alternative meaning (different students are attending various performances at the same time) is what was intended here. So, while the "of students" part does not affect the verb at all, class in this case is still plural. I know that this sounds strange to say, but that is the rule. If, on the other hand, the class was attending the same performance all together, then the verb should be singular. As for the "their" that pronoun is unclear as to whether it renames class or students in this sentence.

    Just for fun I'll throw in another example of a collective noun being used correctly with a plural verb. This one always raises eyebrows in my class: The family are arguing about where to spend their summer vacation.
    Yes, sounds wrong, but this is correct.
    Last edited by melissac; 13-Sep-2008 at 01:24.

  6. #6
    2006 is offline Banned
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    Re: subject verb agreement for collective nouns

    Quote Originally Posted by melissac View Post
    I know this is an old thread, but I came across it and had to set the record straight.

    I am an English teacher and have to say the teacher is correct, and here is the rule:

    The subject "class" is a collective noun which can be either singular or plural depending on the context. In this case because the students are going to different performances, ??? they are to be considered as individuals and not as a collective unit. I think, to defend the teacher somewhat, she was placing emphasis on the different performances part and here the sentence could be more clear because one could say that the class was going altogether to each of the different performances, but I think the alternative meaning (different students are attending various performances at the same time) is what was intended here. I am not sure why you think that? So, while the "of students" parts does not affect the verb at all, class in this case is still plural. I know that this sounds strange to say, but that is the rule. If, on the other hand, the class was attending the same performance altogether, Wouldn't that be most likely? then the verb should be singular. As for the "their" that pronoun is unclear as to whether it renames class or students in this sentence.
    Do you mean 'all together'?

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    melissac is offline Newbie
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    Re: subject verb agreement for collective nouns

    Yes, I did mean all together...just got in too big of a hurry. I'll correct that. I think I was trying to give the teacher the benefit of the doubt. I think the interpretation of the sentence is key, and more than likely (I hope at least) the teacher clarified the sentence in class to make the meaning clearer. I think the students just as easily could be attending different performances which would make class plural and fit with what the teacher stated. I do realize the sentence is not as clear as it could be which is not ideal.

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    Red face Re: subject verb agreement for collective nouns

    I am not an expert in the English language but I am currently studying it.

    I think the best answer is the simplest one. Since this is subject-verb agreement, let us focus on the subject and the verb. The subject in this case is clearly "the class" which is singular and by using "of students" supports its singularity even more (I think). If the subject was intended to be plural, it should have simply said, "the students" or "the students in the class". The subject being singular, the verb should be "attends". The rest of the sentence is irrelevant.

    I hope I made sense.

  9. #9
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    Re: subject verb agreement for collective nouns

    The students attend class, and the class attends to what the teacher says.

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