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Collective nouns and their verbs


E. JEROME DAVIS

Collective nouns and their verbs

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RECENTLY THERE has been much debate on the use of the collective noun and its verb agreement.

In the past we were all taught that the collective noun was followed by a singular verb. For example the team is on the field.

Of late, however, we have been hearing and reading: The team have arrived.

My research has revealed that a plural verb may be used with a collective noun if one wishes to emphasise differences among the group or if members of the group are to be thought of individually.

For example: The team have different views on the matter. It would be appropriate though, to say: The team has lost the match. One may vary the sentence to avoid complications.

For example: The members of the team have different views on the matter.

Note, however, that the police, the poor, the elderly and the young always take a plural verb. It is hoped that the above has brought some clarity to the debate.

E. JEROME DAVIS

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