Collective Nouns

Collective nouns, like team, group, or Writing Crew, can also be tricky. While each noun is properly speaking singular — one team, one group, one Writing Crew — these nouns also refer to multiple people or things within them. You can therefore argue for either a plural or singular verb. American English usually opts for singular verbs. In the following example:

The team wins every game.

The Writing Crew offers great advice.

Note that a singular verb follows each subject. In England, though, one would likely write:

The team win every game.

The Writing Crew offer great advice.

The real difference is one of connotation. A singular verb calls attention to the group as a single, united entity, while a plural verb calls attention to the individual members. Thus, The team wins every game emphasizes the team as a whole, while The Writing Crew offer great advice focuses on the individual members of the Writing Crew.

These nouns are tricky, so here are two quick pointers:

  • Treat collective nouns as singular. This usage is more conventional.
  • Rewrite the sentence so that the collective noun is no longer the subject.

To implement rule b in cases where the individual members are more important than the whole group, rewrite the sentence to refer to them. Thus, the following examples would work:

The Writing Crew offers great advice.

Writing tutors offer great advice.

See? You can get around these problems.

Subject-Verb Agreement

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