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    • Join Date: Dec 2009
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    #1

    What does this mean ?

    ''Collective nouns that refer to individuals within the group must be followed by a plural verb.''

    Eg: The police were at the scene of the accident.

    May i know what does it mean?? Can i have more examples on this ?

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    #2

    Re: What does this mean ?

    All the family were (not was) baking cookies together.

    The police and the family are groups or people. So the problem arises: should we treat it as singular (as it is one group) or plural (as there are many people in there). The solution is, as far as I know, that we consider it plural, when we think of the very people of whom the group consists. And, we treat it as singular, when the we have the group as a whole in mind.
    Last edited by mmasny; 11-Feb-2010 at 14:19. Reason: typo


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    #3

    Re: What does this mean ?

    (Not a teacher)

    I found this from dictionary.com:

    Usage note:
    Whether a collective noun, which is singular in form, is used with a singular or plural verb depends on whether the word is referring to the group as a unit or to its members as individuals. In American English, a collective noun naming an organization regarded as a unit is usually treated as singular: The corporation is holding its annual meeting. The team is having a winning season. The government has taken action. In British English, such nouns are commonly treated as plurals: The corporation are holding their annual meeting. The team are playing well. The government are in agreement. When a collective noun naming a group of persons is treated as singular, it is referred to by the relative pronoun that or which: His crew is one that (or which) works hard. When such a noun is treated as plural, the pronoun is who: His crew are specialists who volunteered for the project. In formal speech and writing, collective nouns are usually not treated as both singular and plural in the same sentence: The enemy is fortifying its (not their) position. The enemy are bringing up their heavy artillery.
    When the collective nouns couple and pair refer to people, they are usually treated as plurals: The newly married couple have found a house near good transportation. The pair are busy furnishing their new home. The collective noun number, when preceded by a, is treated as a plural: A number of solutions were suggested. When preceded by the, it is treated as a singular: The number of solutions offered was astounding.
    Other common collective nouns are class, crowd, flock, panel, committee, group, audience, staff, and family.

    So, in other words, it seems to vary a lot. Neither one is 'correct'.
    Last edited by Linguist__; 11-Feb-2010 at 13:34. Reason: Misunderstanding of question.

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    #4

    Exclamation Re: What does this mean ?

    Quote Originally Posted by mmasny View Post
    All the family were (not was) baking cookies together.

    The police and the family are groups or people. So the problem arises: should we treat is as singular (as it is one group) or plural (as there are many people in there). The solution is, as far as I know, that we consider it plural, when we think of the very people of whom the group consists. And, we treat it as singular, when the we have the group as a whole in mind.
    I would say you are close to the striking point. The solution is to identify when you think the group is working as individuals or in unison (as a single unit). When the unit is acting in unison, it is appropriate to use the singular. When the members of the unit are acting as individuals, it is appropriate to use plural forms of verbs and pronouns. For example:
    The family is waiting for their guest to arrive. (waiting as an unit)
    The family are engaged in cooking. (each member of the family is cooking as individual and doing his/her job)
    The enemy is advancing while the army are getting ready with their strategic weapons. (Each member of the army working as individual but the enemy is acting as an unit)
    The class waits for its [singular pronoun] teacher quietly.
    The class start their [plural verb and pronoun] homework assignments while they wait for their teacher. (The students are a unit, but are acting as individuals)


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    #5

    Re: What does this mean ?

    I must say that these distinctions given by sarat_106 and mmansy are highly informative and seem logical and correct. Even for myself though, it seems a lot of thought has to go into the utterance - am I talking about each member as an individual, or the group as a whole doing the same thing, or more or less doing similar things etc.

    It is useful to know this information, especially for English language exams, and if you are writing then you have time to think about such things. In normal conversation though, I think it's more a case of 'what comes out' that is what you say. If you say a singular verb with a collective noun when it is meant to be plural, no one is going to correct you in normal conversation. They might in writing, and they will in an exam. So, learn the distinction, but don't get worried about it.

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