Relative pronouns - A group of men <who, which> ...?

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Paulfromitaly

MODerator
Italian
Hi,

Which pronoun should I use in this (silly) example?

That group of men, who were (related to men) standing at the counter having a beer, came from London.

That group of men, which was standing (related to group) at the counter having a beer, came from London.
 
  • Old Novice

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Hi,

    Which pronoun should I use in this (silly) example?

    That group of men, who were (related to men) standing at the counter having a beer, came from London.

    That group of men, which was standing (related to group) at the counter having a beer, came from London.
    In my experience, "group" may be either singular or plural, depending on whether one is speaking of the group as an entity with some sort of reason for being or as a collection of members. In the second version, I found myself envisioning a group standing at a bar passing around a single beer, in furtherence of some purpose of the group. :)

    This is silly, of course, but it suggests that the second sentence is not really about the group as an entity, but as a collection of individuals. Therefore, I think only the first sentence works. In fact, in this context, I'd say,

    "That group, who were standing at the counter having a beer, came from London."

    Of course, it's been a long time since I studied English grammar, and there may be a rule about this of which I'm unaware.
     

    TrentinaNE

    Senior Member
    USA
    English (American)
    Maybe this is the type of quandary that leads people to start leaving words out: That group of men, standing at the counter having a beer, came from London. :)

    Elisabetta
     

    Paulfromitaly

    MODerator
    Italian
    Maybe this is the type of quandary that leads people to start leaving words out: That group of men, standing at the counter having a beer, came from London. :)

    Elisabetta
    Sure, that's the best solution, but I've just invented that silly example to work the who/which - singular/plural issue out, knowing that it doesn't flow naturally at all ..:)
     

    Brian P

    Senior Member
    So you'd consider group as an entity and therefore you'd use a plural verb..but why Who rather than which?
    I suppose that "which" could be grammatically correct but the common relative pronoun for a group of human beings is "who". In my ?? years of speaking English I have never heard anyone say "the group of men/women/people which ..."

    Saluti amicali,

    Brian
     

    Paulfromitaly

    MODerator
    Italian
    I suppose that "which" could be grammatically correct but the common relative pronoun for a group of human beings is "who". In my ?? years of speaking English I have never heard anyone say "the group of men/women/people which ..."

    Cordiali Saluti amicali,

    Brian
    Thanks Brian :)
     

    Old Novice

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    I suppose that "which" could be grammatically correct but the common relative pronoun for a group of human beings is "who". In my ?? years of speaking English I have never heard anyone say "the group of men/women/people which ..."

    Saluti amicali,

    Brian
    I agree when speaking of "a group of men". But what about speaking just about "the group"? For example, both of the following sound fine to me:

    "The group that claimed responsibility is called X."

    and

    "The group X, which claimed responsibility, was formed in 1974."

    In this case, the focus is on the group as an entity, and I think the impersonal "which" or "that" works well.
     

    Snowman75

    Senior Member
    Australia (English)
    Perhaps the following examples would be useful in helping to work out the singular/plural issue:

    Where is/are the group of men?
    The group of men is/are here.

    For me "is" is required in the first example, but the second example is not as clear.

    Now here's another question. If "group" has to take a singular verb, but also has to take the relative pronoun "who" because it's a group of people, does that mean we end up with:

    That group of men, who was standing at the counter ...

    :D
     

    Old Novice

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Perhaps the following examples would be useful in helping to work out the singular/plural issue:

    Where is/are the group of men?
    The group of men is/are here.

    For me "is" is required in the first example, but the second example is not as clear.

    Now here's another question. If "group" has to take a singular verb, but also has to take the relative pronoun "who" because it's a group of people, does that mean we end up with:

    That group of men, who was standing at the counter ...

    :D
    I now wonder if "group of men" can take the singular form if we think of it as distinguished from another group?

    "The group of men is here. The group of women is over there."

    In such a case, I would use "which" rather than who:

    "The group of men, which was standing at the bar, ignored the group of women."

    But it gets harder:

    "The group of men, which was standing at the bar, disturbed the group of women with their noise."

    "Its noise" sounds wrong, but the rest of the sentence sounds OK. So either I just have an eccentric ear for such things [very possible], or we are into an area in which it is hard to state absolute rules.
     

    Paulfromitaly

    MODerator
    Italian
    "The group of men, which was standing at the bar, disturbed the group of women with their noise."

    "Its noise" sounds wrong, but the rest of the sentence sounds OK.
    huh...If "The group of men, which was standing at the bar" sounds ok to you, it means I still haven't understood the whole issue...
     

    Old Novice

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    huh...If "The group of men, which was standing at the bar" sounds ok to you, it means I still haven't understood the whole issue...
    I was surprised, too, and maybe others will disagree with me. I raised the possibility only because it seemed to make sense in the context in which "of men" distinguished the group from another. How about this:

    "The engineering group was at the bar. The marketing group took seats at tables."

    "The engineering group, which was at the bar, was noisy and disturbed the marketing group."

    I see nothing in the above sentences that bothers me at all. So if I replace "engineering" with "of men" and "marketing" with "of women", should everything change? Maybe, but maybe not, too. That's the idea I was trying to get across.
     

    i_speak_spanish

    Senior Member
    Peru
    it seems that you can use who and which for plural subjects.. even if they are people.. try google
    "the group of people who are"
    "the group of people which are"

    also about snowman said... it should be this way:
    the group is
    the group of people is/are

    should i trust in google?
     

    Porteño

    Member Emeritus
    British English
    I was surprised, too, and maybe others will disagree with me. I raised the possibility only because it seemed to make sense in the context in which "of men" distinguished the group from another. How about this:

    "The engineering group was at the bar. The marketing group took seats at tables."

    "The engineering group, which was at the bar, was noisy and disturbed the marketing group."

    I see nothing in the above sentences that bothers me at all. So if I replace "engineering" with "of men" and "marketing" with "of women", should everything change? Maybe, but maybe not, too. That's the idea I was trying to get across.
    I can see nothing wrong with these examples like 'the engineering group' but it just sounds awful to me to say 'the group of men which was' because, I suppose, I can not disassociate the men and the group and regard them as a 'gaggle of individual men' and men being plural requires a plural verb.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    As the coversation is wandering gently off the question of who or which and onto the question of group, singular or plural, it's time to include a link to
    A group of people + singular/plural?

    The collective nouns that seem singular take which.
    Those that seem plural take who.

    So if a group of men seems plural, it takes who and a plural verb - and we don't have to say That group of men, who was standing at the counter ... - which is a great relief to me :D

    It's strange that the engineering group seems singular most of the time.
    A group of men seems plural, except when it doesn't.

    The length of the thread I linked to, and the other threads it provides links to, are evidence of the difficulty, or perhaps I might say impossibility, of finding set of guidelines for this topic.
     
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