Collective nouns - the band <is, are> ... ?

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marianna713

New Member
United States, English
Hello,

I am reading a book in which the author consistently uses a plural verb with a singular subject. However, the singular subject refers to a plural number of people.

Examples: The band are touring. The Zou (a band) play at many venues.

Is that correct grammar? It sounds so odd. I wouldn't say "the family are...," but should I?

Thanks,
Marianna
 
  • cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Hi Marianna,

    I don't recall the names of the threads, but this topic has been discussed a few times recently. We have had grammarians on both sides of the fence.
    I'm not a grammarian, but did look it up in a few style guides. Here's what I found:

    1. The logic and sense are more important than any rule. Either the singular or plural verb forms are ok with a collective noun.

    My personal experience as a reader tells me that this form is more common in BE than in AE, especially is business writing.

    In short, it's fine, but may sound a little strange to the ear of the AE speaker.

    cheers,
    Cuchuflete
     

    Kelly B

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I agree; I want to emphasize that it depends very strongly on where you are. Americans almost always use a singular verb form with a collective noun. I think that in the UK they use the plural verb form more often.
     

    Helicopta

    Senior Member
    England - English (Learning Spanish)
    I think we probably use both here but I would say 'are' is the more common.

    What about this phrase?
    Has the band played yet? You've just missed them, they were fantastic!
    You wouldn't say "You've just missed it, it was fantastic!" Or would you?
     

    Helicopta

    Senior Member
    England - English (Learning Spanish)
    Good point Jean-Michel,
    I'd only thought of it in terms of bands but your examples illustrate very well that it should probably always be plural.
    However, maybe bands are something of an exception. I deliberately wrote the question as "Has the band played yet?" not "Have the band played yet?" because to me, both sound fine. It's only the response "You've just missed it" that sounds strange.
     

    LV4-26

    Senior Member
    I think this is what cuchu means when he says

    The logic and sense are more important than any rule.
    Though a non native, I'd react the same way as you do to this sentence.
    It seems more logical to me to say "Has the band played yet"
    And it also seems more logical to say "you've just missed them"
    Now to explain why it is so is another story ;)
    Apparently, the band plays as a whole, but you miss its members.
     

    Kelly B

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I hate it when I make grand sweeping statements and am proven wrong, wrong, wrong. Of course LV's examples are correct in AE as well. However, in addition to the band example, the following are all common AE usage:

    The church council is voting.
    Our government is (insert your favorite political statement here).
    The police department has chosen a new standard gun. (As opposed to the police are... and I do not know why it is different... help?)
     

    LV4-26

    Senior Member
    The only answer that comes to my mind here is that there is a limited number of collective nouns really working as collective nouns, e.g. the ones I mentionned plus others. It seems that it is a closed list.

    Hence "the police" has always been working as a collective noun and it will always remain so. But "police department" is a fairly new concept which came up after the "list had been closed".

    Maybe this is even more true (can you say "truer" ? seems strange) in AE.
     

    mjscott

    Senior Member
    American English
    Kelly B wrote:
    The church council is voting. (council is singular--church is an adjective here)

    The police department has chosen a new standard gun. (As opposed to the police are... and I do not know why it is different... help?) (department is singular--police is an adjective here)

    I think....--or so someone who was bigger than me taught me at the time!

    ;)
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Is this correct English?
    "Radiohead are an English alternative rock band from Abingdon, Oxfordshire, formed in 1985. The band consists of Thom Yorke (vocals, guitars, piano), …"
    Note the inconsistency in the forms.
    (a quotation from Wikipedia, a featured article)

    << This question has been merged with an earlier thread. Please read from the top. However, there is still more to be said about this particular context.
    Cagey, moderator. >>

     
    Last edited by a moderator:

    hello121

    Banned
    english us
    a collective noun is a word used to define a group of objects, where objects can be people, animals, emotions, inanimate things, concepts
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    a collective noun is a word used to define a group of objects, where objects can be people, animals, emotions, inanimate things, concepts
    OK, so what about 'government', is this a colletive noun, or an abstract noun defining a constitutional political entity?
    Besides, a collective noun usually denotes an entity at the same time.
     
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