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    #1

    Collective nouns and subject verb arrangement

    I was reading Fowler's Modern English Usage

    Collective nouns. The idea of notional agreement affects this group and also those dealt with in 6 and 7. In BrE, collective nouns may be correctly followed by either a singular or a plural verb: (sing.) Each succeeding generation of gallery visitors finds it easier to recognize Cubist subject-matter, A group of four young men, in denim overalls, was standing close to him; the Oxford University Press publishes many scholarly monographs each year; (pi.) The jury retired at five minutes past jive o'clock to consider their verdict; Let us hope that the Ministry of Defence are on our side this time. In AmE it is customary for a singular verb to be used with collective nouns: a fleet of helicopters was flying low {New Yorker, 1986); the government routinely imposes differential taxes on hotels, bars ... and the like {Bull. Amer. Acad. Arts b Sri., 1987); the KGB uses blackmail and intimidation (Chr. Sri. Monitor, 1987). But some collective nouns in AmE, esp. those of the type *a + noun + 0f + plural noun', optionally govern a plural verb: a couple of them rattle on amusingly (New Yorker, 1986); a handful of bathers were bobbing about in the waves (P. Roth, 1987); you think of the States as a country where the majority of all the shareholdings are in the hands of women (Dxdalus, 1987); a rich and detailed picture of a world in which a multitude of elements were intertwined (NY. Rev. Bks, 1989).
    So it states that collective nouns often takes singular verb and often takes plural verb. But how to determine which verb form will be the correct one?

  1. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Collective nouns and subject verb arrangement

    The idea is that the speaker/writer determines whether the intended meaning of a collective noun is singular or plural. Therefore, the form that is used is determined by logic and meaning rather than by syntax. In AmE we more commonly (but not always) treat collective nouns as singular. In BrE they more commonly (but not always) consider collective nouns as plural. That depends on whether the collective is seen as a unit or a group of individuals.

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    #3

    Re: Collective nouns and subject verb arrangement

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeNewYork View Post
    The idea is that the speaker/writer determines whether the intended meaning of a collective noun is singular or plural. Therefore, the form that is used is determined by logic and meaning rather than by syntax. In AmE we more commonly (but not always) treat collective nouns as singular. In BrE they more commonly (but not always) consider collective nouns as plural. That depends on whether the collective is seen as a unit or a group of individuals.
    Can you give some examples of such logic or scenario, so that I can get some real understanding? Thanking you in advance.

  2. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: Collective nouns and subject verb arrangement

    Take the word "jury". After a trial has concluded the jury must determine a verdict.

    Some say "The jury is deliberating". They see the jury as a unit.
    Some say "The jury are deliberating". They see the jury as individuals.

    I AmE we commonly use the first. If we wish to focus on individuals, we will often say "The jurors are deliberating".
    I suspect the second is common in BrE.

    Some say "The government is raising taxes. They see the government as a unit (Mostly AmE).
    Some say "The government are raising taxes. They see the government as a group of individuals. (Mostly BrE)

    Some say "Chicago is beating Detroit" (baseball). They see a team as a unit. (Mostly AmE)
    Some say "Arsenal are beating Manchester United (rugby). They see a team as individuals. (Mostly BrE)

    The word family is interesting. With this word, AmE is split depending on usage.

    My family is coming for Thanksgiving.
    My family are arguing about the sale of the house.

    In this case, a family can come or go as a unit. But a unit cannot argue. Only individuals can argue.

    In AmE we are likely to say "A herd of cattle is in the pasture". In BrE, it would likely be a herd of cattle are in the pasture.

    I hope these examples help you understand the issue.

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    #5

    Re: Collective nouns and subject verb arrangement

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeNewYork View Post
    Some say "Arsenal are beating Manchester United (rugby). They see a team as individuals. (Mostly BrE)
    Soccer, or football to the rest of the planet.

  3. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: Collective nouns and subject verb arrangement

    Oops!

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    #7

    Re: Collective nouns and subject verb arrangement

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeNewYork View Post
    Take the word "jury". After a trial has concluded the jury must determine a verdict.

    Some say "The jury is deliberating". They see the jury as a unit.
    Some say "The jury are deliberating". They see the jury as individuals.
    I would say "The jury is deliberating".

    I AmE we commonly use the first. If we wish to focus on individuals, we will often say "The jurors are deliberating".
    I suspect the second is common in BrE.
    I wouldn't say "jurors" in this context. I would say "The jury is out/deliberating".

    Some say "The government is raising taxes. They see the government as a unit (Mostly AmE).
    Some say "The government are raising taxes. They see the government as a group of individuals. (Mostly BrE)
    I would say "The government is raising taxes".

    Some say "Chicago is beating Detroit" (baseball). They see a team as a unit. (Mostly AmE)
    Some say "Arsenal are beating Manchester United (rugby). They see a team as individuals. (Mostly BrE)
    I agree with this. "Arsenal are beating Manchester United".


    The word family is interesting. With this word, AmE is split depending on usage.

    My family is coming for Thanksgiving.
    My family are arguing about the sale of the house.
    I would say "My family is arguing about the house sale".

    In this case, a family can come or go as a unit. But a unit cannot argue. Only individuals can argue.

    In AmE we are likely to say "A herd of cattle is in the pasture".
    In BrE, it would likely be a herd of cattle are in the pasture.
    I would say "There is a herd of cattle in the pasture". If I had to start with "A herd" then I would continue with "... of cattle is in the pasture". A herd is a singular item to me.
    As a BrE speaker, I was interested in what an AmE speaker thought I would say. Above in red are the sentences I would use.
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

  5. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: Collective nouns and subject verb arrangement

    And I very much appreciate your response. I get very confused by what I hear from BrE speakers.

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    #9

    Re: Collective nouns and subject verb arrangement

    That's because different speakers say different things. In most of the sentences you gave, I'd probably use 'are', so ems and I differ.

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