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Working as a unit or not

Posted by ESC on November 03, 2003

In Reply to: Group -- US vs. UK differences? posted by Henry on November 03, 2003

: : : : : Should we say: a group of words that HAS or HAVE a special meaning? Where can I find more info about grammatical rules related to this topic?

: : : : My opinion -- group HAS.

: : : The answer depends on what you intend to say has a special meaning. If it's the group, then "has." If it's the words, then "have." Most likely the words have meanings, the group doesn't, so you'd go with "have." "A group of words that have special meanings."

: : This may be related or not: as an American, I'm often taken aback by the British tendency to pluralize corporate entities. Perhaps they're puzzled by our usage!

: : Examples: UK: "Parliament HAVE said that immigrants..." versus US: "Congress HAS said that immigrants". Or: UK: "BBC1 PRESENT a story..." vs US: NBC PRESENTS a story...".

: : In America, a corporation or corporate entity is treated linguistically as a single person. That's why I would say "the group HAS....". But someone from the UK (and Commonwealth?) might perhaps say "The group HAVE...".

: : Responses, any UK fans?

: A body is often regarded as a number of individuals and given a plural entity -
: Manchester United are going to win the League.

: I agree with R Berg that the verb can depend upon the action or quality of the group.
: Should 'I raise my my hat to the committee'
: be followed by
: 'In return, it raises its hat to me' or
: 'In return, they raise their hats to me'?

: A committee, of course, does not wear a hat! 'They' represents 'the members of the committee.'

According to this, it depends on whether the group is acting as a unit or are the group members acting as individuals. "The Elements of Grammar" by Margaret Shertzer (Simon & Schuster, New York, 1986):

Collective nouns as subjects - A collective noun is a noun that names a group of persons, animals or things: committee, herd, furniture. Such nouns may be regarded as singular or plural:

Singular, if the word denotes a group acting as an individual;
Plural if the word denotes the individuals that make up the group.

The jury HAS agreed upon the verdict.
The jury HAVE disagree as to their verdict.

So using this rule, would it be group of words that have/has a special meaning?