Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Sad Demise of the Group Singular

This is a little off topic, but could help you if you write publicity documentation or advertisements ... or indeed anything, for your business.

One upon a time in the language of Shakespeare, there was (and still is) a part of grammar called "collective singular." Any of you who had a reasonably decent education and didn't go to sleep in English classes will know what I refer to. For those who have forgotten, here's a short refresher.

When you have a group of something (by definition two or more), for the purpose of English expression it is generally treated as singular. Thus, if you use a singular noun, it should make sense that it is followed by a singular verb. Here are some examples of collective singular nouns and verbs, the ...
  • gaggle has flown
  • team has
  • club has
  • group has
  • Western Mining Company has
  • Australia (meaning the Australian Cricket Team or some other team) has
  • committee has
All these are past tense. Change "has" for "is" and you have present tense. So, why do so many journalists, advertising gurus and others use "have", which is plural?

It's probably the same reason why people use "amount" when they should use "number" ie, they are simply too lazy to work out what is right, or worse, they just don't know and understand English expression.

It saddens me to hear or read English that is poorly structured. That is why I am a pedant proofreader.

If you need help with proofreading, writing, formatting or anything else to do with business communication, please visit my main site here and contact me with a request for quotation.


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