Subject-Verb Agreement

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How to Make Verbs Agree with Collective Nouns

Collective nouns Opens in new window are words by which we refer to a group of things or people, but that act as a single unit. In other words, a collective noun is singular when it serves as the subject of a present tense verb.

Take for instance, we may have a class that contain 15 students, but there is actually only a single class. Thus, collective nouns require an s–ending on the verb.

Consider the sentence below:
  • The class pays attention to the teacher.

There are numerous such nouns in English; a few examples are shown in the chart below:

Collective Nouns

However, collective nouns can be made plural when referring to two or more such units.

Examples include:

  • The musical bands make the event entertaining.
  • The athletic teams compete against each other.

Likewise, a collective noun may occasionally be used to refer, not to the group, but to the individual members of the group. In this case, the collective noun would be considered plural, and the verb would get no s–ending.

Example includes:

  • The group give their contributions to the chairman.
    (Group here means “the members of the group,” which is plural, with an s– ending on members.)

Now, it's worthwile to bring up the issue of the word numberOpens in new window. Note that number is sometimes a kind of collective noun.

Observe closely, the context number is used in the following sentences:

  • The number of supplies is not enough.
    (The number (in this sentence), which is considered a single unit or figure, requires an s–ending on the verb.)
  • However, at other times, it can be plural:

  • A number of new supplies have been ordered.
    (A number, which is considered as a total, is plural and therefore needs no s–ending on the verb.)
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