Collective nouns: Family: single or plural?

< Previous | Next >
  • ace02nc

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    "My family means a lot to me" is correct.

    If you wanted to refer to the plural of family it would be:

    "Those families mean a lot to me."
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    should I say my family mean a lot to me or my family means a lot to me?
    If you are speaking AE, your family takes a singular verb.
    If you are speaking BE, it may be singular or plural, depending on context.
    Please have a look at the threads listed at collective family.
    They will not give you a definitive answer, but should help you to appreciate the complexity of the question.
     

    Waylink

    Senior Member
    English (British)
    Generally, I agree that "My family means a lot to me" is correct.

    But in some situations it can be different.

    If someone says, "My family means a lot to me", I take that to mean the family as singular whole, as a collection.

    If someone says, "My family mean a lot to me", I take that to refer to the members of the person's family - each individual member.

    In both cases, there is one family but a different emphasis.

    Also, sometimes some words are implicit.

    If we say, "Most of my family are here" it is implicit that we mean "Most members of my family are here". If we were to treat "family" solely as a noun singular, we could not say, "most of my family is/are here" any more than we could generally say "most of my brother is/are here" (!!!).

    Similarly, if you say, "The committee meets every month" that refers to the collective group. If you say, "Most of the committee prefer coffee" that refers to the individual members of the committee. The committee as a collective cannot drink coffee - it is the individual members who may or may not take refreshment.
     
    Last edited:

    vost

    Senior Member
    France, Français
    If someone says, "My family means a lot to me", I take that to mean the family as singular whole, as a collection.

    If someone says, "My family mean a lot to me", I take that to refer to the members of the person's family - each individual member.
    What I mean is that each individual member means a lot to me so I should say mean and not means...
     

    bloomhaven

    Member
    English - Canada
    Although both are technically correct, I would say that the more usual way of expressing it would be to use "means". The phrase "my family means a lot to me" conveys the meaning that you love your entire family. If you want to strongly emphasize that you value each individual member of your family, it would be clearer to say something like "Every member of my family means a lot to me".
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I am well aware that we have discussed this time and time again. My point is that if you opt for the singular "family", as this sentence does, and then go on to use a pronoun that refers back to the word "family", that pronoun should also be singular.
     

    JazzByChas

    Senior Member
    American English
    sound shift said:
    My point is that if you opt for the singular "family", as this sentence does, and then go on to use a pronoun that refers back to the word "family", that pronoun should also be singular
    I agree here also. Sentences need to agree in number, tense (and gender, for non-English languages)

    So, " ... the average American family consumed much more loaves of bread than they do today."

    would be better as,

    " ... the average American family consumed many more loaves of bread than it does today." where "it" refers to the singular noun, "family."
     

    Eigenfunction

    Senior Member
    England - English
    I disagree. If you say, "My family are important to me." then when you use a pronoun it must be plural. As in:
    I love my family. They are important to me.:tick:
    not:
    I love my family. It are important to me.:cross:
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    If you think along the lines of the average American family being a singular collective noun, an institution as someone said, "it" would refer to family to be grammatically correct.

    On the other hand this singular abstract usage clashes with the verb "consume", because the image of an averaged abstract concept singularly eating loaves is really quite strange and does not read naturally. That's why "than they do today" sounds more natural than "than it does today" even if the former (and original) isn't quite correct.
    In the previous discussions of family/police/government/sports team names - it was my conclusion that the AmE BrE usage distinction differs. Any of these can refer to the entity itself (singular) or its members (plural). The AmE usage seems to favor a grammatical priority: if the word - as distinct from the meaning of it - is singular then the agreeing verb is also singular. Subsequent references to the entity will be singular, but subsequent references to the members group may well (indeed usually do) refer to they, and all else is plural. The BrE usage seems to favo(u)r the conceptual meaning so a plural verb more frequently follows a "singular" (collective) noun when the members are being referred to.

    My family is coming to visit. It comes once a year.:cross:
    My family are coming to visit. They come once a year.:tick: in BrE
    My family is coming to visit. They come once a year.:tick: in AmE

    Fulham is going to win the FA Cup Final :D *. It earned it this year.:cross:
    Fulham are going to win the FA Cup Final. They earned it this year.:tick: in BrE
    Fulham is going to win the FA Cup Final. They earned it this year.:tick: in AmE

    *Well, perhaps Chelsea are a :eek: possibility.
     

    JB

    Senior Member
    English (AE)
    I love my family. It are important to me.:cross:
    I agree this is incorrect. However in standard AE,
    I love my family. It is important to me. is standard.

    Unfortunatley, vost gave us no context, so we can only speak here in generalities. If vost wishes to add some specific context (e.g., I am applying for a job in the U.K., or I am writing subtitles for a movie to aid in the U.S.) then we could give specific advice.

    England has a lot more collective nouns (the jury are, the government are, et al.) than the U.S. To my ears, personally, "My family are" sounds as awful as "My car are" - using the plural because the car is made up of many parts.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I love my family. It are important to me.:cross:
    I agree this is incorrect. However in standard AE,
    I love my family. It is important to me. is standard.

    England has a lot more collective nouns (the jury are, the government are, et al.) than the U.S. To my ears, personally, "My family are" sounds as awful as "My car are" - using the plural because the car is made up of many parts.
    I love my family. It is important to me.

    Would you not agree that "They are important to me." is standard too?

    I think England has the same number of collective nouns as the US but BrE speakers are generally comfortable with a "single" noun followed by a plural verb, when referring to the multiple members of the collective (not the unit) while AmE speakers are not.
     

    Lucky Hao

    New Member
    Chinese
    Look at the two sentences. May you find the difference

    His family is a large family. His family are early risers.
     

    birzo

    Senior Member
    Swedish
    How to answer this question : "Does the family have many friends ?" "Yes, they do." Or "Yes, it does." (referring to the singular noun "family".) Or are both answers correct ?
     

    lune97

    Senior Member
    Korean
    Hello, everyone...
    Are the both sentences correct ?

    1) My family always get together on my birthday.

    2) My family always gets together on my birthday.

    Thanks in advance.
     

    perpend

    Banned
    American English
    Just 2), lune, is correct: My family always gets together ...

    (I hate it when that happens. :))
     

    lune97

    Senior Member
    Korean
    Thank you, Perpend,

    I learned that based on the context, the word "Family" is regarded as a singular or as a plural.

    So, I think both sentences are correct. Can you explain why only 2) is correct.

    Best regards.
     

    perpend

    Banned
    American English
    Highly curious now on the AuE speaker's point of view, viv. What do you guys use?

    Sorry, lune. I didn't know that it's acceptable and fine in BE.
     

    cycloneviv

    Senior Member
    English - Australia
    They both sound feasible to me!

    Edited to add: Perhaps this has something to do with panj's comment in the other thread: If you are speaking BE, it may be singular or plural, depending on context.

    (Perhaps it would be useful if this thread were added to that one...)

    << It has been. Thank you :) >>
     
    Last edited by a moderator:

    firee818

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Which sentence is correct?
    1). His family is thinking of moving to Canada next year.
    2). His family are thinking of moving to Canada next year.

    If both sentences are correct, what is the difference in meaning between them?
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    If the family members are all agreed on something, it seems to me more natural to use the singular verb.

    Compare:

    His family are at loggerheads as to whether they should all move to Canada.
     

    pob14

    Senior Member
    American English
    If the family members are all agreed on something, it seems to me more natural to use the singular verb.

    Compare:

    His family are at loggerheads as to whether they should all move to Canada.
    I think we'd work around that in the US: "His relatives are . . . " or "The members of his family are . . . ."

    "His family are" just sounds too strange to us colonials. :D
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top