Collective nouns - has/have - is/are?

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Lizajoy

Senior Member
US English
Hi,

My question is regarding the use of the plural for what I think is called "collective" nouns. I know this is common in BE, e.g., "Liverpool were great last night.", but I need to know if this is informal speech or is it accepted by the authorities that be (perhaps the BBC?). If it's considered correct, how far does it extend? Should I say "The agency were able to train..."? (My Latin-grammar trained heart flinches at the very thought!):eek:


Thanks!

Lizajoy
 
  • moodywop

    Banned
    Italian - Italy
    I think that notional agreement is perfectly acceptable in BE in both formal and informal contexts, especially with words like committee, jury, staff, team and even the BBC. Even a pretty conservative usage guide (Fowler's) states that "collective nouns may be correctly followed by either a singular or a plural verb".

    With words like family and government a singular verb sounds better if you see them as abstract entities.

    In a democracy the government is elected by the people


    The government is/are expected to make a final decision tomorrow

    Carlo
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    This has been discussed several times before.

    CLICK HERE

    OR HERE

    Better still, search the English Only forum for "collective".

    You really ought to do that before starting a new thread:)

    That way you can add your thoughts to the accumulating collective wisdom on this topic.
     

    Jenny*

    Member
    England - English
    From my experience

    "The agency were able to train..."

    and

    "The agency was able to train..."

    are equally acceptable both in formal and informal contexts. Yes, BBC reporters would say "Liverpool were great last night" rather than "Liverpool was great last night", the latter would sound very weird to me.
     

    Lizajoy

    Senior Member
    US English
    Sorry, panjandrum, I didn't think to search under "collective".:eek:

    Thank you all for the replies, they've been very helpful.


    Lizajoy
     
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