plural collective nouns

Thomas G. Lammers lammers at FMPPR.FMNH.ORG
Thu Oct 29 09:05:28 CST 1998

At 08:05 AM 10-29-98 -0800, Dick Jensen wrote:

>For example, Fagaceae as a family name is a Latin plural.  But, when used in
>English, it may take a singular or plural verb depending upon the context.
>    "Fagaceae is recognized as a taxon based on the following characters..."
>    "Fagaceae are found in Asia, Europe, North America, South America..."

I respectfully disagree.  The word "Fagaceae" is a plural noun in English,
just as octopi, indices, cacti, and other English words of Latin origin, and
so takes a plural verb, no matter what.   I would never say, "The cacti is a
group of succulents."  Nor, for that matter, would I say, "The Jensens is
our neighbors", when referring to the Jensen family as an unitary entity.
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.

Thomas G. Lammers

Classification, Nomenclature, Phylogeny and Biogeography
of the Campanulaceae, s. lat.

Department of Botany
Field Museum of Natural History
Roosevelt Road at Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, Illinois 60605-2496 USA

e-mail:    tlammers at
office:          312-922-9410 ext. 317 (voice-mail)
home:     630-759-4280
fax:                312-427-2530

"In no affairs of mere prejudice, pro or con,
 do we deduce inferences with entire certainty,
 even from the most simple data."
             --- Edgar Allan Poe

More information about the Taxacom mailing list