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Write the Right Word: Matching Nouns and Verbs

Collective nouns can be confusing.

They are nouns - such as faculty, company, panel, couple, herd - that are singular in form but plural in meaning. But because they indicate a single unit, they take singular verbs.

Here are some examples: “The faculty is meeting today.” “The company announced it is reopening tomorrow.” “The older herd of cattle was sold last.”

Some of these nouns can be tricky, depending on their use. In the faculty example, faculty needs a singular verb, “is,” because the faculty is a group working together in agreement. However, if the faculty members begin operating as individuals, then you’d need to use a plural verb. For instance: “The faculty disagree on whether to hold another meeting before the end of the semester.”

Here’s another example of usage making a difference: “The couple is buying a house.” (The couple is acting as one unit.) But, “The couple have separate checking accounts.” (They are operating as individuals.)

, Information Specialist, 701-231-5391  

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