Tuesday, October 25, 2011

On Language

I didn't realize that the Oxford comma would be so polarizing!  Will it be very sad or totally cool if that Monday Laugh post ends up being one of my most popular?  Oh, well, I guess you're all in this with me regardless.

However, since we're already talking about grammar...

I remember learning in my 10th grade English class - hello, Miss Stair! - that when you use a singular noun to reference a group of people, the verb that follows has to be singular.  So, for instance, I was taught that you would say:

The team is winning the game.

It seems that in British English, though, you often reference the multiple people held within the collective noun and use a plural verb:

The team are winning the game.

This bothers me beyond belief - but apparently it's not that the British are losing an appreciation of proper grammar and rather that we find here an example of cultural differences!  (Ta da.)  When I did a little digging on Google, I found that Wikipedia (blessed be it) recognizes both formal and notional agreements for collective nouns, as explained below: 

If you want something a little more (ahem) established than Wikipedia, Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage goes into much depth on this subject, and the information can be found in its entirety online at the link above.

I actually find this sort of thing fascinating.  Please tell me you do, too!

(Disclaimer: my grammar nerdiness only extends so far, and I therefore must beg your indulgence if you find any grammatical mistakes in this blog.  I'm only human!)


  1. Ah, this kind of thing is always really interesting! You know, I never thought about it before but I do use both the singular and the plural forms, often within the same sentence. I had no idea that American English didn't do the same. (AmE is often better at following the rules, really, isn't it?)
    I'm going to blast "Oliver's Army" now. That was a TUNE.

  2. I'm a serious (British English) grammar geek and hearing a lack of agreement between nouns and verbs is like nails down a blackboard for me. I think most people who commit this most heinous of grammar crimes simply do it out of ignorance rather than any loophole afforded to them by British English! Interesting to hear about the cultural differences though...I wasn't aware of them before; maybe I should be more tolerant!

  3. I find it interesting! Grammar is a never-ending source of conflict in my household as I can never stop correcting Kevin for using "are" when (I think) "is" would be proper.

    There was an good article awhile ago about how American English sounds more like British English of the 1700s than Brit English does today. Something about how Americans cling tightly to grammar rules, whereas Brits are ever evolving theirs. **madly googles to search for said article** *gives up*

    If you like learning about the differences- check out separatedbyacommonlanguage.blogspot.com as it is written by an American linguist in the UK.


  4. I can never figure out the use of "staff" in this country and when I send out general emails, I always resort to saying "staff members are requested" because "staff is requested" sounds weird to me and Word doesn't like "staff are requested". Then again, I am notorious for my terrible grammar.

  5. English is one of the most important languages in the world. It can even be said to be the single most important language.Other languages are important too

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