Interested in Language
Our performance has a big audience.
..... A lot of our audience are from the neighboring State of New Jersey.
Can we use the phrase 'a lot of our audience' to refer to the people who come to see our performance?
I would use the singular "is" for audience.
Don't capitalize the S in state.
I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.
I thought of that, but I thought the 'lot of' was enough to make either acceptable.
A lot of the people in our audience come [plural]
A lot of our audience comes ... [singular]
when it's the same 'a lot' doing the coming.
As for 'State' I think it's fine to capitalise the 'S'. Why?
State/state is like Government/government. Just as we say 'the French Govenment'/'the French government', we can say 'the state of New Jersey'/'the State of New Jersey'. I believe there are certain preferences:
I live in the state of New Jersey (preferred where the meaning is the geographical territory)
An official of the State of New Jersey (preferred where the meaning is the state government) - see at www.nj.gov
but it's not set in stone. If you type in these exact phrases in google:
"lives in the state of new jersey"
"the government of the state of new jersey"
and then try a few more states, you'll see that it's pretty arbitrary whether 'state' or 'State' is used - it's certainly not a blanket case of 'Don't capitalize".
My "discomfort" is on account not of the phrase 'a lot of', which I would consider perfectly usable in, say
A lot of the coffee has been drunk.
but of its combination here with a group noun like 'audience', i.e. a grammatically singular word referring to a collection of distinct individuals. In such cases, 'a lot of' strikes me as rather strange.
For much the same reason, I would prefer a large part/proportion of the population to ?a lot of the population.