police is/are does/do [singular vs plural]

Heliss

Member
Bulgarian and English
Please tell me which sentence is more correct:

The police is responsible for the capturing the criminals.



or

The police are responsible for the capturing the criminals.
 
  • Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    The police are responsible for catching criminals

    The police force is responsible for catching criminals

    By the way, it would only be the criminals if you meant some specific criminals, not criminals in general.
     

    Prima Facie

    Senior Member
    Spain-Spanish
    Hi Andygc,

    when you talk about "the police", aren't you referring to the police body? I mean, you are not talking about policemen, are you?

    In that case, would "is" alwasy apply?

    thanks
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    Hi Andygc,

    when you talk about "the police", aren't you referring to the police body? I mean, you are not talking about policemen, are you?

    In that case, would "is" alwasy apply?

    thanks
    No, I am not talking about policemen. Yes, I am referring to the police body, but the noun "police" is always treated as a plural noun.
     

    Karen123456

    Senior Member
    Malaysia English
    Gerard Samuel Vijayan: Even if it is PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim in the tape, since when does the police get involved in politics to the point of campaigning for the BN in a PAS-controlled state. Is the sex tape a threat to national security?

    Shouldn't it be 'do' instead of the verb in bold?

    Thanks.

    << Moderators note:
    I have merged this thread with an earlier thread. Please read from the beginning. >>
     
    Last edited by a moderator:

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    I would have written that sentence with "do", Karen. Apparently, the writer is thinking of "the police" as one unit. That sounds possible, but I generally hear people use plural verbs after the noun "police": The police do many good things for the community.
     

    pops91710

    Senior Member
    English, AE
    I would have written that sentence with "do", Karen. Apparently, the writer is thinking of "the police" as one unit. That sounds possible, but I generally hear people use plural verbs after the noun "police": The police do many good things for the community.

    I have a tendency to agree. If you add department after police, then it would be does. Maybe he was thinking that way.
     

    sendintheclowns

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    "Police" is a collective noun that can be either singular or plural, depending on the context. If you say "the police do" you refer to the individual police officers, while "the police does" refers to the whole force as a unit. In this particular context, the writer probably refers to the police as an entity getting involved in politics rather than the individual members.
     

    Karen123456

    Senior Member
    Malaysia English
    "Police" is a collective noun that can be either singular or plural, depending on the context. If you say "the police do" you refer to the individual police officers, while "the police does" refers to the whole force as a unit. In this particular context, the writer probably refers to the police as an entity getting involved in politics rather than the individual members.
    I was taught that it should be 'police are...'. Is my teacher wrong?
     

    sendintheclowns

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    Again, it depends on context. It is perfectly ok to say "The police is a positive influence in our community" in which case it refers to the police force. But you can also say that "the police are doing a great job" in which case you would be referring to the individuals in the force.

    "Brother" of course is not a collective noun :) But "family" could be.
     

    ribran

    Senior Member
    English - American
    Again, it depends on context. It is perfectly ok to say "The police is a positive influence in our community" in which case it refers to the police force. But you can also say that "the police are doing a great job" in which case you would be referring to the individuals in the force.

    "Brother" of course is not a collective noun :) But "family" could be.

    Can you give me a sentence in which you think it is appropriate to use a singular verb with police?
     
    Last edited:

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    Gerard Samuel Vijayan: Even if it is PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim in the tape, since when does the police get involved in politics to the point of campaigning for the BN in a PAS-controlled state. Is the sex tape a threat to national security?

    Shouldn't it be 'do' instead of the verb in bold?

    Yes, it should be. It should also be on the tape.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    This is an interesting exception to the usual AmE rule that "a collective is a singular noun and therefore takes a singular verb*". Or perhaps it is not considered as a collective noun but simply a "weird" plural without an -s at the end ?

    *For example, teams in sports are often named after places so "San Francisco (singular grammatically) is doing a good job. They are (not it is) finally batting well."
     

    Fabulist

    Banned
    American English
    While it is possible to construct a theory in which "police" is a singular noun in American English, as a practical matter "police is" or "police does" just sounds wrong to me. The American Heritage Dictionary is no help because it gives "police,n., pl. police." I just would never use a singular verb with the noun "police" alone. If "police" is being used as an attributive, as in "police force" or "police department," then the verb is governed by the noun which is modified by "police." It doesn't have anything to do with "police" when it functions as a noun.

    Police departments all over the country are on the alert for al-Quaeda counterattacks.:tick:
    The New York police force has a special counter-terrorism squad.:tick:
    The New York police department have an art theft squad.:cross:
    The New York police is looking for the suspect.:cross:
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    While it is possible to construct a theory in which "police" is a singular noun in American English, as a practical matter "police is" or "police does" just sounds wrong to me.

    So you would simply call it a plural and not think of it as a "collective"? I'm not sure how I used to think (long ago before I moved to the US), but "government" can go either way while "police" is not the same.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    In actual practice, I believe I treat police as a plural of which policeman or policewoman is the singular. (When I don't want to specify the gender, I say police officer.)

    I don't claim this is universally true in AE, but I suspect it is the general usage.

    (Policemen, policewomen, and police officers are also possible plurals, but police seems to draw attention to their function than to their status as individuals.)
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Hm, now I'm not so sure anymore that "police is" is technically correct... (even if it should be :) ) It is very commonly used, though -- perhaps more so in British English?
    I don't think "the police is" is commonly used, either in BrE or in AmE. "The police" is always plural, to my mind: see also the definition in the WR English dictionary:
    police/pəˈliːs/
    ▶noun [treated as pl.]
    The only time I might expect a singular verb is when "police" is part of a name and shorthand for a particular police force - as in the sentence I quoted in one of the previous threads on this subject: "The Metropolitan police is London's biggest employer".
     

    Broil

    New Member
    English - USA
    In normal speech, you'll hear both "is" and "are" to refer to a collective(like police). I would personally use "is", however, I am unaware of which is grammatically correct.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    In normal speech, you'll hear both "is" and "are" to refer to a collective(like police). I would personally use "is", however, I am unaware of which is grammatically correct.
    So, you would say, "The police is coming."?
     
    Broil, you are wrong. "Police" is always treated as a plural:

    The police were called when the demonstrators refused to leave.
    The police have released a sketch of the suspect.
    The police are evacuating the area as the flood waters rise.

    Consider this: while you have heard people say "a police officer", or "a police department", have you ever heard anyone say simply "a police"? The singular simply does not exist.
     

    Broil

    New Member
    English - USA
    Broil, you are wrong. "Police" is always treated as a plural:

    The police were called when the demonstrators refused to leave.
    The police have released a sketch of the suspect.
    The police are evacuating the area as the flood waters rise.

    Consider this: while you have heard people say "a police officer", or "a police department", have you ever heard anyone say simply "a police"? The singular simply does not exist.

    I never said being grammatically correct, I am simply stating that I have heard more than a few speakers use "is" but never say "a" police, but may say "the"
    Example: "The police is going to find us!" "The police is evil!" But, it may be strictly people from Southern America who'll use is. Again, I am speaking of usage, not of correctness and saying that I've heard both from native-born Americans, however, only one is correct.
     

    koniecswiata

    Senior Member
    Am English
    It depends on context:

    Police could be considered either plural or singular--though using plural verbs with police is probably much more common. As an American, I like the idea that it is just a "weird plural" like children, or geese, or teeth. Generally, American English will treat collective nouns which are functionally/moprhosyntactically singular as singular (i.e. the family, government, company is) as opposed to the more British habit of looking at it semantically and considering it to be plural.
     

    lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    I disagree with GWB, but in such a specific way that it doesn't matter for everyday use.

    In political theory, "the police" can be defined as an entity (not a force of policemen, but a generalized social form of "policing" and all its attendant institutions - criminal law, public trials, detective novels) that at a specific time entered the cultural life of the West: "At the time Wilkie Collins wrote The Moonstone, the police was becoming a more and more dominant presence in Victorian culture."

    I would agree with Broil that sentences like "The police is a capitalo-fascist institution" (a more Marxy rewrite of "The police is evil!") should take the singular.
     
    Lucas, I will agree with you in that usage. My absolute statements were about the use of the word with its usual narrower meaning: the people with the uniforms and the badges who have the responsibility and authority to enforce the law.
     

    lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    Yay! Thanks for your agreement. But as I said at first, this is a very rare and particular usage (it's actually much narrower than the sense you're discussing, I think); when the police are tracking criminals or wiretapping judges, they're plural.

    We can now discuss whether "the police" is singular or plural in slogans like "Fuck the police."
     

    Vaald

    New Member
    This is an interesting exception to the usual AmE rule that "a collective is a singular noun and therefore takes a singular verb*". Or perhaps it is not considered as a collective noun but simply a "weird" plural without an -s at the end ?

    *For example, teams in sports are often named after places so "San Francisco (singular grammatically) is doing a good job. They are (not it is) finally batting well."

    I have just read the following "Tayside Police has not received a copy of the anonymous letter, directly or indirectly" (The Scotsman, 17 Aug 2012). Does this mean that the same rule is getting popular with the British?
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I have just read the following "Tayside Police has not received a copy of the anonymous letter, directly or indirectly" (The Scotsman, 17 Aug 2012). Does this mean that the same rule is getting popular with the British?
    No. There is a difference between the police and Tayside Police. It would be very unusual for a BE speaker to say the police is (see previous posts), but Tayside Police is a proper noun - the name of an organisation - not a collective noun, so in BE you will see both forms - Tayside Police has/have not received a letter - depending on the preferences of the writer. This point was covered in Post #23 - it's a good idea to read the whole thread before adding a new question. :rolleyes:
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Unlike military which has a word for the force and another word for the members of that force (army/soldiers; navy/sailors), the "police" does not have these choices.

    In general "the police" are the equivalent of "soldiers/sailors/etc." We say "police department" or "police force" when we are talking the equivalent of "army/navy".

    So the police are (plural) and the police department is (singular).
     

    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    One should equally note that ''police department'' will only be heard in AE*. ''Police force'' or ''Police service'', as in the PSNI - Police Service of Northern Ireland, are the preferred BE terms.

    *Police departments do not seem to be popular in Eastern English Canada, however it appears that the term is used in British Columbia.
    **The (southern) Irish call the police ''the Gardai'' or ''the Guards'', from the Irish, An Garda Síochána
    .
     
    Last edited:

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    One should equally note that ''police department'' will only be heard in AE*. ''Police force'' or ''Police service'', as in the PSNI - Police Service of Northern Ireland, are the preferred BE terms.

    *Police departments do not seem to be popular in Eastern Canada, however it appears that the term is used in British Columbia.

    I should also say that "the police" when used in the sense of a police force or a police department or police service, would be singular.

    Police officer: I'm a LEO. [Law Enforcement Officer]

    Civilian: You work for the police? [Singular. The question is really asking if he works for the police department.]

    Police officer: No. Actually I am an agent in the DEA. [Drug Enforcement Agency, a law enforcement agency].
     
    Top