Singular nouns treated as plural

Some singular nouns can be used with either a singular or plural verb. The commonest of these are the collective nouns which stand for a group or collection of people or things. These include words such as audience, committee, crew, family, government, group, team, and many others. So, both these sentences are correct:

The government is doing a good job.

The government are doing a good job.

But you shouldn't switch from singular to plural. For example:

The government is doing a good job. They are responding to the situation effectively.

The government are doing a good job. It is responding to the situation effectively.

These sentences would need to be rewritten as:

The government is doing a good job. It is responding to the situation effectively.

The government are doing a good job. They are responding to the situation effectively.

There are one or two collective nouns that cannot be used with either a singular or a plural verb. The most notable are police and people: both of them must always be used with a plural verb:

✓ By and large the police do a good job.

By and large the police does a good job

People are beginning to ask questions.

People is beginning to ask questions.

 


Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove ads and access premium resources

Grammar and usage