EN: the police - plural collective noun

Willow_O

Member
France
Bonjour,

Je souhaiterais traduire en anglais la phase suivante :
"La police est en train d'arrêter quelqu'un"

Dois-je dire "the police is arresting someone" ou "the police are arresting someone ? "

Merci d'avance.
 
  • Moon Palace

    Senior Member
    French
    You can say 'the police are arresting / chasing...'
    'the police' is part of collective nouns which can be used in the plural. we then consider the people that are part of this group.
    I believe you can use a plural with 'the army', 'the labour (force)'.
     

    Tim~!

    Senior Member
    UK — English
    I believe you can use a plural with 'the army', 'the labour (force)'.
    We quite naturally use a plural verb with the police, yet seem to prefer singular verbs with the army.

    If I were asked to bet on the results, I would feel very confident that most English people would naturally say "The police are coming" yet "The army hasn't yet left Baghdad" and "The labour force is near full capacity".

    It's one of those strange things that I've thought about for many years, how strange it is that we naturally use different forms for things that are so similar as the police and the army.

    The 'police force', however, would be singular every time.
     

    Moon Palace

    Senior Member
    French
    Although I have well understood your use of the words 'army' and 'labour force' would mainly be in the singular, the CED confirms the possible use of a plural for both these words. Here and there. The OED also mentions it for labour force.
    I guess it all depends on context and the locutor's intentions as often.
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    "The police is arresting someone" sounds odd to me. If I heard a non-native speaker say this, I might assume that he/she was trying to say "The police officer [singular] is arresting someone."
     

    lovelygirl83130

    Senior Member
    Var
    FRENCH
    Bonjour,

    J'ai un peu du mal quand à comprendre si " police were " signifie " les policiers étaient" ou bien " la police était"...
    voici la phrase: police were mystified as to why he should have killed himself..."

    merci :)
     

    Nunki1920

    Senior Member
    Français - France
    What if you mean "the police" as the institution (law enforcement) - not police officers. In AmEn, should you still use "the police are"?

    For instance (fictional example): la police est une vieille institution. The police are/is a very old institution?

    Thanks
     

    Dazza

    Member
    English
    It depends what the speaker has in mind, whether they (or he/she) view the noun as a single unit or collective noun.
    So either: the police is or the police are.
    In the cricket they often say: the England team/the Barmy army are... (instead of "is"). I prefer to say the English team is.
    But then they always say the Australian team, not the Australia team.
    So there's no 100% perfect fit, answer.
     

    Nunki1920

    Senior Member
    Français - France
    Thank you so much Maître Capello for your suggestion and Dazza for your explanation.

    It seemed to me that, indeed, when the speaker has in mind the single unit (as would be the case in my example), the singular could be used, but I kept finding only examples of the plural in dictionaries, so I was wondering if I had dreamed up the distinction :)
     

    Dazza

    Member
    English
    To confuse things more, Nunki you will usually see a writer narrate: "the police are...." and a few sentences later, "the police has..." -- inconsistent!
     
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