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  1. Newbie
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    Clergy (Collective Noun/Verb Agreement)

    I had a question about subject/verb agreement in the following paragraph:

    Many religious groups are introducing dramatic changes to their institutions in order to preserve their faith during a time of declining membership. A recent poll indicated that the number one reason for the decline in church attendance is that members attend with less frequency than they did just a few years ago. Many people that have left their faith complain that traditional values have become outdated. They say religious beliefs need to be modernized to reflect 21st century families and life styles. In addition, the leaders who promote the faith need to be more charismatic. The clergy (need/needs) more enthusiastic leaders that can relate to today’s youth.

    In the last sentence, would it be correct to say needs? Would both be correct? I'm having trouble figuring this out and why. Some sources of information indicate differences between American and British English for collective nouns. If someone could comment and let me know where I can find more information about this topic I would appreciate it. Thank-you!

  2. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    Re: Clergy (Collective Noun/Verb Agreement)

    Depending on context, collective nouns can be seen as singular or plural in many cases. Speakers of BrE tend to see collectives as plural more than speakers of AmE. In your sentence, even though I am an AmE speaker, I would use the plural verb there. But I would accept the singular use.

    The clergy (as a whole) needs...
    The clergy (as individuals) need...

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    Re: Clergy (Collective Noun/Verb Agreement)

    I'm a BrE speaker and tend to use the plural, but the singular's fine.

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