football team: it / they

Rename Folder

New Member
Romanian
Hello!

I recently came across the following fragment from a post on Wikipedia,
which I suspect was not written by a native English speaker:

Fotbal Club Ripensia Timișoara, commonly known as Ripensia Timișoara,
or simply as Ripensia, is a Romanian professional football club based in
Timișoara, Timiș County. It plays in the Liga II.


I have rarely, if at all encountered the form "it plays" when referring to a
team. Usually, when journalists refer to such an instance, they use alternative
formulations (e.g., "they play well"), as opposed to "it plays well".

Is it correct (in whatever way) to say "it plays in the premier league",
or "it plays really good today", when talking about the performance
of a football team? And if so, why is it mostly avoided?

Otherwise, sentences like "it has won x titles" (referring to Manchester
United F.C., for instance) are much more common.

Thank you!
 
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    First there's the general AmE/BrE difference: AmE the team is, BrE the team are. This is widespread for all such words. But specifically for a football team, there are certain times when we are not talking about the players, but about the team itself: It was founded in 1897. It is a member of the Premier League. For me, as a BrE they-are-sayer, the first must use 'it was', not 'they were', and the second is a natural place to say 'it is', though 'they are' is also possible. But if the players are playing well today, the team are playing well today; this is not a time when we're thinking of the team, not the players.
     

    vincix

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    this is not a time when we're thinking of the team, not the players.
    I don't understand this last sentence. Is it a typo? Do you mean to say that this is a time when we're thinking of the team, not the players?

    I think you still haven't answered the question. Is there a context where you can actually refer to a team and say that "it plays"? Something like:
    Manchested United is one of the biggest clubs in England. Most of the time it plays very well.
    Or is it absolutely imperative to use the plural, as to play refers to the players themselves rather than the team?

    When you say the first and the second, are you referring to the AmE/BrE?

    What does "natural place" actually mean? "Commonplace"?
     

    MarcB

    Senior Member
    US English
    He did answer you. AE considers collective nouns as singular and BE as plural in most cases. So it depends on which type of English is being used.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Is there a context where you can actually refer to a team and say that "it plays"? Something like:
    Manchested United is one of the biggest clubs in England. Most of the time it plays very well.
    In AE, it is typical that the singular is used for the team name but thereafter, the plural is used when the meaning expresses the individual members. So in your example, the first verb would be is, but “most of the time they play well”. It is especially true when the team name is that of a city. E.g., San Francisco has a good baseball team and they won three world series recently.
     

    vincix

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    But would "it plays well" sound awkward if you insisted on using it? (in comparison to "the team plays well")
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    But would "it plays well" sound awkward if you insisted on using it? (in comparison to "the team plays well")
    It always would sound awkward for me (as one who follows the BE sense rule, rather than the AE grammar rule). I don’t think I’ve heard “It plays well” from an AE sports commentator, but perhaps an AE speaker can give you an answer about awkwardness:D
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    "It plays well" with respect to an athletic team would leave an AE native completely mystified. :confused::confused:

    We do have the expression, however, such as "Donald Trump has a brusque style, but it plays well among supporters."

    Here, "plays" is a metaphor referring to a theatrical performance.
     

    Delvo

    Senior Member
    American English
    I'm American and I can't think of an example where we'd ever use singular pronouns for a team when the noun they replace is the team's name. That might work for other collective nouns like "herd", but not teams. Maybe it's because team names are plurals. Our team names are things like "Chiefs" and "Broncos" and "Falcons", not singulars or things of unidentifiable number like "Arsenal" and "United".

    When the noun is something else that's naturally singular like "team" or "franchise", then singular pronouns are normal.
     

    Truffula

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    I'm American and I can't think of an example where we'd ever use singular pronouns for a team when the noun they replace is the team's name. That might work for other collective nouns like "herd", but not teams. Maybe it's because team names are plurals. Our team names are things like "Chiefs" and "Broncos" and "Falcons", not singulars or things of unidentifiable number like "Arsenal" and "United".

    When the noun is something else that's naturally singular like "team" or "franchise", then singular pronouns are normal.
    Not all the team names, though...
    Miami Heat
    Utah Jazz
    Orlando Magic
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I'm American and I can't think of an example where we'd ever use singular pronouns for a team when the noun they replace is the team's name. That might work for other collective nouns like "herd", but not teams. Maybe it's because team names are plurals. Our team names are things like "Chiefs" and "Broncos" and "Falcons", not singulars or things of unidentifiable number like "Arsenal" and "United".
    But they're not all plural, are they? Think of Columbus Crew. Presumably you'd still say "They're playing well" when referring to that team.

    (Cross-posted with Truffula)
     

    Truffula

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    Sound shift: Yes - and I found such a reference to Utah Jazz as "they" in a news report from Salt Lake. I only found one, though. And no instances of "it." Sports writers don't like to use pronouns for teams very much.
     
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