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EditFast Grammar Resource: Verbs: Collective Subjects
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Verbs


Using Verbs Correctly

Rule 9:
Collective subjects can be used with either singular verbs or plural verbs depending on the meaning.
Subjects that describe collections of people or things are called collective subjects.

Examples:

committee class team
jury group staff
family crowd audience

Such collective subjects can be used with either singular verbs or plural verbs depending on whether we want to tell the receiver that only one thing (a single "unit") is involved in the action or that at least two persons or things (individuals) are involved in the action. For example, if we wish to make an announcement on behalf of all our family members and want to show our readers or listeners that our announcement is really being made by all family members, we would say:

• The family are happy to announce Mom and Dad's fiftieth wedding anniversary.

But if the family is being talked about as a single unit instead of as individual family members, we write:

• The family is living in Lockport, New York.

Some verbs name actions that require only one performer; other verbs name actions that must be performed by more than one.

Example:

The action named by the verb argue requires more than one performer because it takes two to argue. Thus, we write or say:

• The team are arguing about who will be chosen for the award. (Although this is correct, most people would probably say, "the team members. . ." because it sounds more natural.)

If the team members are united in arguing with the coach, we can talk about the team as a single unit:

• The team is arguing with the coach about who will be chosen for the award.


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