Collective nouns - the government <is, are> increasing ...

irene.acler

Senior Member
Italiano
Hi everybody.
I have a question about the following sentence:

The government are increasing interest rates to try to keep inflation down to under 2%.

Is it correct to use the plural verb form after the noun "government"? Does it need the plural form?

Thank you in advance for your help.
 
  • Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    Specifically, from Cambridge

    The government is/are expected to announce its/their tax proposals today.

    link

    I have never heard of a government being referred to as a plural entity before! Does that mean that we can then extrapolate accordingly, ie:

    "The Federal government have reduced our income taxes"
    "The provincial government are spending too much money"
    "The municipal government don't look after our interests"

    Oh, please, say it ain't so!:eek:
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    You can't, Dimcl, but we may if the context suggests it.

    BE allows for government (and many other collective nouns) to be either singular or plural.
    It seems that AE prefers to keep to the singular.

    There is much discussion and explanation on the various links provided above.
    A forum search for government singular plural lists 26 threads.

    Looking at this specific example, plural sounds very strange to me. But it may be OK to others.
     

    elcholandes

    Member
    dutch
    Dear all,

    are the following two sentences correct?

    the government were persuaded (not all the individuals within the government were persuaded?)

    the government is persuaded (all were?)

    thanks in advance,
    J.L,S
     

    LizzieUSA

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    No. Government is not a collective noun; it is single. You would say, "The government is persuaded."

    To talk about members of government, we would probably say "Members of government are persuaded."
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    No. Government is not a collective noun; it is single. You would say, "The government is persuaded."

    To talk about members of government, we would probably say "Members of government are persuaded."
    Sorry, it's not that easy.

    Please read from the beginning of this thread and check the links.

    In the particular example, I suspect that BE speakers would generally stick with singular, but other examples demonstrate both singular and plural use.
     

    LizzieUSA

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Sorry, it's not that easy.

    Please read from the beginning of this thread and check the links.

    In the particular example, I suspect that BE speakers would generally stick with singular, but other examples demonstrate both singular and plural use.

    I did read from the beginning the first time I posted in this thread, and I stand by what I said. I did make one mistake: government can be a collective noun, but in the United States, it is nearly always singular. From a practical standpoint, if you use government as a plural collective noun, people will think it is wrong.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    [...]From a practical standpoint, if you use government as a plural collective noun, people will think it is wrong.
    From a US perspective that's fine. From a UK perspective, the use of government as a plural collective noun is somewhat unusual, but acceptable.

    Drinks industry regulation: 'The government are nervous about taking a tough stance'
    (Guardian, 23 July 2008)
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Dear all,

    are the following two sentences correct?

    the government were persuaded (not all the individuals within the government were persuaded?)

    the government is persuaded (all were?)

    Hello, elcholandes. I assume you're asking if your bracketed phrases give the implied meaning of the two alternative versions.

    If so, my answer is no, not really.

    It's simply that in "The government were persuaded" the focus is on the individuals within the government, whereas in "The government was persuaded" the focus is on the government as a collective entity.
     
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