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Singular nouns with plural verbs
Groups of people
In British English, singular nouns like family, government, jury, team, committee, which refer to groups of people, can be used with either singular or plural verbs and pronouns.
Plural forms are common when the group is being regarded as a collection of people doing personal things; and in these cases we use who, not which, as a relative pronoun. Singular forms are common when the whole group is being thought of as an impersonal unit. Note that in these cases, we use which as a relative pronoun.
When a collective noun is used with a singular determiner (e.g. a/an, each, every, this, that), singular verbs and pronouns are common.
Examples of collective nouns which can be used with both singular and plural verbs in British English are: bank, family, party, mob, crowd, team, flock, herd, army, fleet, jury, nation, committee, government, firm, public, choir, school, class, jury, staff, club, ministry, union etc.
In American English, a collective noun is almost always treated as singular. Note that family is an exception to this rule. It can have a plural verb. Americans often use plural pronouns to refer to collective nouns.
Plural expressions with singular verbs
When we talk about amounts and quantities we usually use singular determiners, verbs and pronouns, even if the noun is plural.
Two singular nouns joined by or takes a singular verb.
When a singular noun and a plural noun is joined by or, the verb agrees with the nearest noun. Note that in these cases, it would be better to use the plural noun second; then a plural verb must be used.
Singular indefinite person
They/them/their is often used to refer to a singular indefinite person who has already been mentioned. This is common after each, every, either, neither, someone/somebody, anyone/anybody, nobody/none, whoever, and no.
This use of they/them/their is convenient when the sex of the person referred to is unknown.
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Last updated on August 3, 2007|
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