Matching verbs to collective nouns

Collective nouns are nouns which stand for a group or collection of people or things. They include words such as audience, committee, police, crew, family, government, group, and team.

Most collective nouns can be treated as singular or plural, with either a singular or plural verb:

√ The whole family was at the table. [singular verb]

√ The whole family were at the table. [plural verb]

There are a few collective nouns which are always used with a plural verb, the commonest of which are police and people:

√ She’s happy with the way the police have handled the case.

X She’s happy with the way the police has handled the case.

If you aren’t sure whether to use a singular or a plural verb with a collective noun, look it up. Most dictionaries will tell you which is correct.


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