Singular/plural verbs

Posted by Captain America on August 10, 2002

In Reply to: Singular/plural verbs posted by R. Berg on August 09, 2002

: : : I am in the midst of editing a document which must retain British usage of English. There are inconsistencies regarding subject/predicate agreement. I'm wondering if anyone here could help me with the rules regarding same.

: : : For instance, when "the company" or "management" is the suject of the sentence, should the predicate, indeed be plural, rather than singular, as it would be in American English?

: : : Examples:

: : : Brit: The company were engaged in selling their assets.
: : : Amer: The company was engaged in its assets.

: : : Brit: Management were thrilled.
: : : Amer: Management was thrilled.

: : : Am I correct in my assumptions, here? Is there a rule by which I may operate on this document?

: : : Any help would be most appreciated. Thank you very much in advance.

: : : Regards.

: : In my (British) opinion, it's more about the difference between the strictly correct and the colloquially used. To look at your two examples, I'd always use "the company was engaged...", but when it comes to "management", though strictly speaking, it's a singular subject and therefore should govern a singular verb, to say "management were pleased..." to me reads more easily.

: : Somewhere in the recent archives (unless it got trashed during the great disk crash disaster) there's a discussion on allowable plural verb forms with apparently singular subjects. Someone may be able to provide the link.

: Apparently it did get trashed, not cached, in the crash. I checked the main page and didn't find an appropriately titled link.

They used to say only death and taxes were certain. Now it's death, taxes and data loss. Thank God electronic format was not available to Shakespeare or there surely would've been a tragic accident involving a ZIP disk and a lodestone...but I digress.

I agree it depends on knowing your audience. In my (American) opinion, I would definitely say "The company was..." and I'd never say "Management were..." Management carries the connotation of a single impersonal collective. If I wanted to put faces on the group, I'd use "the managers".