plural collective nouns

Richard Jensen rjensen at SAINTMARYS.EDU
Thu Oct 29 10:58:33 CST 1998

Thomas G. Lammers wrote:

> If we add, as Dick pointed out, "The family ..." to his first sentence,
> then, yes, a singular noun is required ... because "family" is now the
> subject of the sentence and "Fagaceae" a mere noun in apposition.

That's my point - apparently I did not make it clear.  When I write "The Fagaceae
is characterized by...,"  it is implicit that I am saying "The family
Fagaceae..."  Therefore, because the phrase "The family"  is implicit in the
construction, a singular verb is appropriate.

I am applying what are generally accepted rules of English grammar with respect
to the use of collective nouns.   For example, people is a plural English word.
Yet I can write "The people have spoken" as a grammatically sound construction
because what I am really saying is "As a group, the people have spoken."  There
is no need for the redundancy of the phrase "As a group" when my construction
implies that that is what I mean.


Richard J. Jensen              TEL: 219-284-4674
Department of Biology      FAX: 219-284-4716
Saint Mary's College         E-mail: rjensen at
Notre Dame, IN  46556

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