The Beatles is/The Beatles are

  • AWordLover

    Senior Member
    USA English

    Although I might say either is or are I think the singular is more correct.

    The Beatles (The Who) is/was a band.
    The Beatles (The Who) is/was a popular band.

    "The Beatles" is the name of a band.


    New Zealand - English
    I think 'is' is correct - 'The Beatles' is a band (singular), therefore you'd use 'is', which is singular.

    EDIT: I was totally sure about that, but now I am not, because wouldn't you say:

    "The Beatles were a popular band," rather than "The Beatles was a popular band."


    Senior Member
    USA (English)
    I definitely think "is" is the correct choice, because "The Beatles" is a single band. If you say "The Beatles are", it indicates that you are talking about several beatles instead of a singular band.

    For this same reason, I'd say "The Beatles was a popular band" (you're talking about one popular band, not several popular beatles.) In conversation, however, you could say it either way.


    Senior Member
    I think here we have a case where the correct grammar can go and take a flying "something" at a rolling doughnut, because the common use (in this very particular case) of the word "Beatles" seems to call forth the image of these four lads that, although part of the same band, were very individualistic.
    So, philosophic banter aside, I have always heard "The Beatles" referred to as in the plural: "When are the Beatles getting a haircut?" ["I just got one," used to quip the now lamented Harrison.]


    Senior Member
    français Clodoaldien
    Definitely ARE.
    For those in doubt, take a close look (and a good hearing) at the movie "The wild ones" (Lee Marvin and Marlon Brando). You'll get the answer.
    That is, by the way, where the name comes from (nowhere else), dixit Paul Mac Cartney himself. John Lennon was crazy about this movie (and the bike and leather stuff).


    Senior Member
    USA (English)
    I agree that it's better to say "The Beatles are getting a haircut", because you mean that each individual member is getteing a haircut. So maybe if you are talking about the band as a whole, you'd use is, and if you're talking about the individual members, you'd use are.

    The Beatles is a popular band.
    The Beatles are getting a haircut.

    But as danielfranco says, common usage overrides any attempt at a grammatical explanation. "The Beatles are" is more common in everyday conversation, because it flows better and sounds more natural.


    Senior Member
    U.K. English
    Since the Beatles are no longer together, and half of them are dead I would say The Beatles were a popular band. Of course they are still popular, but they are no longer a band.
    Although the singular may be correct for a collective noun such as the name of a group, the name "The Beatles" is plural so it sounds very odd to say The Beatles is/was, except in certain contexts.
    The group "The Beatles" was made up of four individual Beatles - John Lennon was a Beatle, Ringo Starr was a Beatle, etc. - they were The Beatles.

    Cader Idris

    Senior Member
    Wales English
    The Who are/were a popular band OR The Who is/was a popular band.
    The Stones are a popular band OR The Stones is a popular band.

    I think most native speakers will agree on the plural forms sounding the more correct, whatever any grammar rules might say. And it doesn't seem to be just for group names prefixed with the definite article.
    e.g. "U2 are rubbish" sounds better than "U2 is rubbish". :D


    Senior Member
    Mandarin, Taiwan
    Hi. This issue seems to have been discussed many times in this forum, and it is simply a difference between BE/AE. As my dictionary listed, Family+singular verb is for AE; however, Family+plural verb is for BE.


    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Hi. This issue seems to have been discussed many times in this forum, and it is simply a difference between BE/AE. As my dictionary listed, Family+singular verb is for AE; however, Family+plural verb is for BE.
    As you suggest, there are many previous threads on this topic - Collective nouns - gives a list.

    The generalisation is that AE strongly prefers singular agreement, BE allows either singular or plural depending on the context - depending on whether the collective is being considered as a unit or as a number of individuals.

    As for "correct" according to grammar rules: in the BE-speaking world, any set of grammar rules that does not allow for this long-established aspect of English is an incorrect statement of English grammar.

    It's hard to imagine any BE-speaker saying "The Beatles is ..." because of the combination of an apparently-plural noun and our flexibility.
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