Posted by Victoria S Dennis on April 06, 2005
In Reply to: Vatican *are* posted by DRC on April 01, 2005
: : : : : Tonight a BBC announcer said 'The Vatican *are* concerned about the Pope's condition.' Wouldn't it have been better to substitute 'is' for 'are'?
: : : : I am from the United States and I think it should be "is." But maybe there's some rule I don't know about.
: : : British usage. The government are, management are, the Vatican are. Collections of people are treated as plurals; in the US as singulars. The team is excited. Somewhere in the mid-Atlantic it switches over.
: : That's reassuring. I just thought I was losing my mind.
: Doesn't it have something to do with "the royal WE"?
- British usage isn't anything like as simple as that! Collections of people are treated as singular if they are acting or being considered as one, and plural if they are acting or being considered as a group of individuals. So you would say "Parliament has decreed.." but "Parliament are debating..." Sometimes it's a matter of choice which way to put it, e.g. "My family is Catholic" (i.e. I think of us as a unit) or "My family are Catholics" (i.e. I think of us as a bunch of separate people).