Collective nouns - where <is, are> the crew?

  • daviesri

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Where is the crew. Since "crew" is a single group.

    If you were going to use "are" you would need to be talking about several crews as in "Where are the crews for all of these ships". Or, as previously said, you are looking for the individauls that make up the crew: "Where are the crew members".
     

    Strider

    Senior Member
    England, English
    In fact, there are a lot of words in English that are acceptable as a singular or as a plural. For example:

    The government has decided / The government have decided.

    In the first example we think of the government as a single entity, in the second we think of the members (ministers) of the government.

    Other words like this are : army, audience, family, staff, team, etc.

    I agree that 'crew' is usually a singular but if we are thinking of the crew members, the plural is OK.
     

    *Cowgirl*

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Strider said:
    In fact, there are a lot of words in English that are acceptable as a singular or as a plural. For example:

    The government has decided:tick: / The government have decided.:cross:

    In the first example we think of the government as a single entity, in the second we think of the members (ministers) of the government.

    Other words like this are : army, audience, family, staff, team, etc.:tick:

    I agree that 'crew' is usually a singular but if we are thinking of the crew members, the plural is OK.

    The government have decided isn't right. Government, like crew, is a collective noun.
    Other examples would be, assembly, class, club, jury, etc...

    If you were to say "the government officials have decided" that would be okay.:)
     

    fenixpollo

    moderator
    American English

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Big apology to US AE-speakers from us blackboard-squeakers:)

    Sorry guys, but we are so accustomed to managing the nuances of both singular and plural with these collective nouns that we have no real way of explaining how or why we do it.

    How do we know when the crew is, and when the crew are? The best I have been able to suggest is that it depends on whether we are thinking of the crew as a unit or as a set of individuals.
     

    lingo95

    New Member
    USA, Standard American English
    I don't think pluralizing collective nouns sounds horrible, I just think it sounds British or Irish.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    lingo95 said:
    I don't think pluralizing collective nouns sounds horrible, I just think it sounds British or Irish.
    :thumbsup: And a very big welcome to lingo95.
    Have a cup of tea and a pint of Guinness (virtual of course).
    Such generosity of spirit deserves a reward:)

    Speaking of rewards, I'd like to offer the same to fenixpollo for assembling the links. I must note that post for reference.
     

    *Cowgirl*

    Senior Member
    USA English
    panjandrum said:
    Sorry guys, but we are so accustomed to managing the nuances of both singular and plural with these collective nouns that we have no real way of explaining how or why we do it.

    How do we know when the crew is, and when the crew are? The best I have been able to suggest is that it depends on whether we are thinking of the crew as a unit or as a set of individuals.

    Collective nouns always take the singular form of the verb.

    The crew are. :cross: The crew is. The crews are. The crew members are.
     

    baconsandwich

    New Member
    British English
    *Cowgirl* said:
    Collective nouns always take the singular form of the verb.

    The crew are. :cross: The crew is. The crews are. The crew members are.
    I disagree, but as lingo95 and panjandrum pointed out (and fenixpollo - 'scuse my ignorance there!), it's probably a British/Irish thing. If there were roadworks :)p) at the end of my road that had been there previously and they were being done by, say, the council, I might explain the situation by saying, "I don't believe it! The council are digging up that road again!", which sounds perfectly :tick: to me (if ticks can be used as adjectives :D)
     

    fenixpollo

    moderator
    American English
    Thanks, panj. I didn't mean to suggest that people who use plural verbs for collective nouns are irritating... just that this practice goes against my grammar programming brainwashing education.

    I'll join you in that Guinness, if it's all right with you. :p~

    Cheers!
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    *Cowgirl* said:
    Collective nouns always take the singular form of the verb.
    In my enthusiasm to head for the flippant comment, I didn't make the point clearly enough that this is very definitely an American English / British English variation.

    Your statement is correct for AE, but not for BE. As you will discover around here, there are many such differences - it helps to keep us all humble.

    Googlefight
     

    bartonig

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Mahonri007

    Keeping to your original enquiry, British speakers say:

    "Where's the crew?" (they don't say "Where is the crew?")
    and
    "Where are the crew?" (but the "where" and "are" are sounded as "where er" - the "er" being almost an afterthought and tucked in to the end of "Where")

    Most speakers would say the former is correct, if asked. But, both forms are used but probably the former more so than the latter. Nobody stops to think if crew means a body of people or just one person.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I've been trying to think of sensible examples to explain the difference between these questions. Here is one such example.

    Where is the crew?
    There does not seem to be a crew on this boat.

    Where are the crew?
    I wonder which pub the crew members have gone to.
     

    fenixpollo

    moderator
    American English
    panjandrum said:
    The best I have been able to suggest is that it depends on whether we are thinking of the crew as a unit or as a set of individuals.
    I just heard an example of using both the singular and the plural verbs to refer to a collective noun:
    Elvis Costello said:
    Oliver's army is here to stay
    Oliver's army are on their way
    And I would rather be anywhere else but here today
     

    xnlover

    New Member
    English - US
    is it where is the crew or where are the crew?
    I am editing a paper in which the author has written "The crew of the USS Freedom are accordingly required to bunk on board their vessel even when in port." I believe the use of the plural verb indicates a reference to "the individual members of the crew", thereby making the use of the plural rather than the singular verb correct and clear. Yes, one could write, "The crew...is...required to bunk," but "are" is not disruptive to an understanding of the sentence, especially since the later use of the word "their" in reference to "crew" emphasizes the plural nature of the use of "crew" here. It would sound odder to say, "The crew...is...required to bunk on board its vessel..."
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    I am editing a paper in which the author has written "The crew of the USS Freedom are accordingly required to bunk on board their vessel even when in port." I believe the use of the plural verb indicates a reference to "the individual members of the crew", thereby making the use of the plural rather than the singular verb correct and clear. Yes, one could write, "The crew...is...required to bunk," but "are" is not disruptive to an understanding of the sentence, especially since the later use of the word "their" in reference to "crew" emphasizes the plural nature of the use of "crew" here. It would sound odder to say, "The crew...is...required to bunk on board its vessel..."
    I definitely think that "the crew are" sounds better here.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    For this BrE-speaker, it's clear that it needs to be "are", since the reference is to the individual members of the crew.

    What intrigues me, though, is that Parla and RM1, both AmE-speakers, agree with me!:D
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    More AmE examples:

    http://coastguard.dodlive.mil/2013/01/ringing-in-the-new-year-with-rhyme-afloat-2/
    Blackjack and snake eyes are cradled and secured, the crew are in their racks, on duty they endured.

    http://www.pacaf.af.mil/News/Articl...ers-supplies-and-troops-to-and-from-iraq.aspx
    It's late in the afternoon on Spangdahlem Air Base Germany and the crew of Reach 5152 are preparing for the evening's mission.

    http://www.army.mil/mobile/article/?p=134983
    The air crew were conducting medical evacuation procedures....
    The "Dustoff" aircrew, now stationed at Grafenwoehr, stands trained and ready to assist U.S. and international forces. The crew are becoming experts in the same airspace they'll be operating.

    Note that the last pair of sentences quoted uses - in fine BrE fashion :D - a singular verb when referring to the crew as a unit, and a plural verb when referring to them as individuals.
     
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