Collective Nouns and Subject-Verb Agreement

Collective nouns and subject-verb agreement
We all know that verbs must agree in number with their subjects, but we must still check our
writing carefully to make sure that subject-verb agreement is maintained. This is especially true
when it comes to collective nouns (that is, nouns that refer to a group of persons or things).
Identify the correct sentences from the examples below; the answers appear at the end of this email.
1. The study group meets at the library.
2. The study group meet at the library.
3. The study group is doing their homework individually.
4. The study group are doing their homework individually.
In American English, collective nouns are generally treated as singular, unless the meaning of
the sentence emphasizes the individual members of the group. If the action of the verb is
something done by the group as a whole, the verb should be singular. If the action is something
done by individuals within the group separately, the verb should be plural.
1. Correct. The group as a whole meets at the library, so the verb should be singular.
2. Incorrect. There is no differentiation between members of the group in this example, so
there is no reason to use a plural verb.
3. Incorrect. The individual members of the group are performing the action of the verb, so
the verb should be plural.
4. Correct. The plural verb form indicates that the action is performed by individuals, and
not by the group as a whole.