General Question

robmandu's avatar

What's the deal with plural verb tense applied to a singular corporate entity?

Asked by robmandu (21275points) July 28th, 2008

See this article where the author says many things like:

> Apple are in many ways a gadget company today…

> Jobs doesn’t agree with everything Apple do but…

See what I mean?

That’s like saying that the Fluther Collective are a great group of people. It uses a plural verb tense to associate two singular terms.

I’ve seen this used from time-to-time before (usually with the word “data”)... but I seem to come across it much more frequently in the last few days and weeks. It must be experiencing a resurgence in popularity.

The Collective know that I’m always on the side of good grammar, punctuation, and spelling. But this one’s got me over a barrel. What do the Collective think?

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4 Answers

Harp's avatar

It’s a British English convention.

robmandu's avatar

@Harp, makes sense. I have been reading Rixstep more of late. Perhaps it’s the sole source of my observation. Haven’t been keeping close tabs on all instances.

When studying the English language, the only constant is inconsistency… but I’ll ask my next question anyway…

Seeing as it might be a British English convention then, is there any explanation why the author then didn’t seize the opportunity to use plural verb form on other singular corporate entities, like “technology”? For instance, does it typically apply to singular nouns that consolidate a group of people in some way?

Harp's avatar

This from the Macmillan dictionary magazine:
“In British English, collective nouns (referring to groups of people) are often followed by a plural verb even when the noun is singular. This does not occur in American English. For example:

British English: The football team are rather weak this year.
American English: The football team is very weak this year.

Other common collective nouns that often take a plural verb in British English are: army, company, jury, audience, crowd, majority, class, enemy, staff, committee, government and union.”

robmandu's avatar

Wow… I almost never guess something correctly.

Thanks, @Harp!

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