collective noun: class; audience; public; is/are

Discussion in 'English Only' started by sevengem, Mar 25, 2017.

  1. sevengem

    sevengem Senior Member

    Chinese
    This class ____ very bright especially in science subjects.
    It was late,but the audience ____ still entering the hall.
    The public ____ very excited now that the concert hall is finished.

    I feel it difficult to decide whether to use singular or plural verbs for collective nouns. Please help!
     
  2. DonnyB

    DonnyB Senior Member

    Coventry, UK
    English UK Southern Standard English
    I'd use the singular in (1): "This class is/was very bright..."

    With (2) and (3) you could probably use either. The tendency now in modern BE is to regard collective nouns such as 'audience' and 'public' as being made up of many individual members and use a plural verb.
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2017
  3. sevengem

    sevengem Senior Member

    Chinese
    But Americans tend to use sigular verbs after collective nouns, right?
     
  4. sevengem

    sevengem Senior Member

    Chinese
    Why use singular in sentence one?
     
  5. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    American English tends to use singular verbs with (which does not always mean "after") collective nouns. I would use a singular for all three examples. Sentence one is singular for the same reasons the others are singular: it is one class.
     
  6. DonnyB

    DonnyB Senior Member

    Coventry, UK
    English UK Southern Standard English
    I would count "this class" as being a particular specific group of pupils and use the singular.
     
  7. sevengem

    sevengem Senior Member

    Chinese
    Why can't I consider "class" here as all the students in the class" and thus use plural verbs?
     
  8. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    You can do whatever you like. On the other hand, as a speaker of American English, I myself would not do that because I prefer to speak the language the way other native speakers from my country do, instead of using a different and non-standard set of rules merely to please myself.
     
  9. DonnyB

    DonnyB Senior Member

    Coventry, UK
    English UK Southern Standard English
    Because "This class are (or were) very bright especially in science subjects" isn't idiomatic and I don't think a native speaker would say it.
     
  10. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I think that if the sentence began "Class 1A" rather than "This class", there would be more of an option to use a plural verb:
    Class 1A are very bright, especially in science subjects.

    It's the singular word "this", to my mind, that points fairly strongly in the direction of a singular verb.

    Note that I'm writing from a BrE perspective, sevengem. If you're studying AmE, you should listen to GWB:cool:.
     
  11. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    Devon
    British English
    As a BE speaker ..... ;)
    In all three example sentences I would use "is" or "was". In each case I do not regard the collective noun as representing a multitude of individuals.
     
  12. firee818

    firee818 Senior Member

    Chinese
    I thought the following sentence should use singular verb 'has'. because the Best Class award is the contribution of the whole class which acts as a single unit.
    Do anyone have difference opinions?

    1). My class have/has won the Best Class award again this year.
     
  13. firee818

    firee818 Senior Member

    Chinese
    < Response to deleted post removed. Cagey, moderator>

    I just would like to confirm the answer is 'has'. Is it correct?
    Because this question is explained in a text book and it uses 'have'. I think the answer is 'has'. Am I correct?
    Please confirm.

    Thanks
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 29, 2017
  14. DonnyB

    DonnyB Senior Member

    Coventry, UK
    English UK Southern Standard English
    I think I would be inclined to regard the title "Best Class" as an accolade awarded to the class as a collective group and use the singular "has".

    However it's equally possible to treat it as an award reflecting the combined efforts of all the individual pupils in the class and use the plural "have".

    So, in BE at least, both are correct.
     
  15. firee818

    firee818 Senior Member

    Chinese
    I
    I got to learn from somewhere:-
    1). If all the members of a group behave in the same ways, same opinions, doing the same things at the same time, then it is considered as a group and uses singular verb.
    2). If the members doing their own thing differently, different opinions and act individually, then the group is referred as making up of many individuals and therefore use plural verb. Even if there is only one member acting differently with the other members, there are referred as making up of many individuals.

    To refer to the above question:-
    1). My class have/has won the Best Class award again this year.

    If all the students in the class have the same determination and contribution to the Best Class award, then we use singular verb, i.e has.
    If one of the student refuses to take part in the event(i.e Best Class competition but the class is still taking part in the event), then we should use plural verb, i.e .have,

    Is the above analysis valid? pls share your opinions.
    Thanks
     
  16. DonnyB

    DonnyB Senior Member

    Coventry, UK
    English UK Southern Standard English
    Sorry, but I don't think you can analyse it in that level of precision or detail. :(

    It's more to do with how the speaker or writer chooses to regard the word "class". As I tried to explain in post #14, you can treat "class" as a collective group and use the singular, or as a group made up of individual pupils and use the plural. Either is common and permissible: it makes no difference if any individual pupil dissents.
     
  17. firee818

    firee818 Senior Member

    Chinese
    Is this article(Grammar Bytes! :: The Collective Noun) persuasively enough to support my claim?
     
  18. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    Devon
    British English
    No.

    As has been pointed out repeatedly here and in other threads, AE and BE differ. That website is American and I cannot comment on its accuracy from an AE perspective. I can look with my BE eyes at this example from it:
    "The jury disagree about the guilt of the accused and have told the judge that they are hopelessly deadlocked."
    I would not say that. I would say:
    "The jury disagrees about the guilt of the accused and they have told the judge that they are hopelessly deadlocked."
    That is, I see the jury as a unit in the first instance, and then effortlessly move to the plural for the remainder of the sentence.
    As DonnyB said
    You cannot.
     
  19. velisarius Senior Member

    Greece
    British English (Sussex)
    I agree with Donny. You were discussing a specific sentence. A native speaker doesn't tend to over-analyse this. You can think of your class as a whole, or as a group of individuals. It's often very subjective.

    In other specific cases, it might be more obvious that you are talking about "all the members of the class":
    After the long exam, the class start their research papers on famous mathematicians.
    Only the plural is appropriate here.

    (crossposted)
     
  20. sevengem

    sevengem Senior Member

    Chinese
    A real headache for examinees! Is there some way for a non-native speaker to decide whether to use a singular or plural verb for a collective nouns?
     
  21. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    Devon
    British English
    You won't be wrong using singular verbs if the collective noun has a singular form (ie, nearly all of them). You might not be colloquial, but AE and BE colloquial English diverge on this point.
     
  22. sevengem

    sevengem Senior Member

    Chinese
    How about these two sentences?

    The government _____having an important meeting.
    The government _____ planning further cut in income tax.

    I am not sure whether to use "is" or "are".
     
  23. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    In American English, you would use "is" in the second sentence, but you would not use the first sentence at all. The Cabinet might have a meeting, but we would not speak of the "government" having a meeting.
     
  24. sevengem

    sevengem Senior Member

    Chinese
    Can't we take "government" in the first sentence as "government officials" just like "family" can mean "all the family members"?
     
  25. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    Devon
    British English
    There's nothing grammatically wrong with the sentence "The government is having a meeting". Having that meeting might not be a possibility in America, but there's no reason why it should be impossible in other countries with a different way of regarding 'government'. It's a grammatical and idiomatic English sentence that would not cause a raised eyebrow among BE speakers. In BE both of your sentences could use either verb - there is no 'correct' choice. It's as I already told you in my previous post.
     
  26. sevengem

    sevengem Senior Member

    Chinese
    Answers seem to vary even among the native speakers. I'm more confused.
     
  27. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    Devon
    British English
    Well, the BE speakers appear to agree. Not surprisingly, GreenWhiteBlue has a different answer because he's an AE speaker.
     

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