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Subject & Verb Agreement with a Collective Noun

Learn the rule of subject and verb agreement when a collective noun is used from Gotham Writers' Workshop instructor Stephanie Paterik in this Howcast grammar video.


It's important for your subject and your verb to agree, even when a collective noun is used. But it can sometimes be difficult to decide if your collective noun is singular or plural. For example, 'team' is a collective noun that refers to a group of people, but it's actually a singular noun. So let me give you an example of what it would look like. If we want the verb and the subject of our sentence to agree, first we need to find the verb and the subject. So in this case, the verb is 'loves', because it's the action, and the actor, or the subject, is 'the volleyball team'.

So when we see a word like 'team', we know that we're dealing with a collective noun, and as a general rule of thumb, collective nouns are singular. So in this case, we need to reach for the singular form of love, which is loves. "The volleyball team loves to win," rather than, "The volleyball team love to win." We also see collective nouns when we're talking about food. For example, there's a dessert called peaches and cream. Now, it seems like we're dealing with multiple nouns here, peaches and cream. But together they form a collective subject, peaches and cream, and so we treat that as singular.

Here's what it would look like in a sentence. So if I want to indicate that my favorite thing to eat is the dessert peaches and cream, I need to treat peaches and cream as a singular subject, because I'm referring to one dessert, and therefore, I need to choose the singular verb, which is 'is', so that there's agreement. So my sentence becomes, "Peaches and cream is my favorite dessert," rather than, "Peaches and cream are my favorite dessert." This one can get a little bit confusing. Don't be thrown off when you see a noun that's referring to more than one item. If it's a collective noun, it's singular, and you need the singular verb.

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