plural collective nouns

John McNeill johnm at ROM.ON.CA
Wed Oct 28 16:52:16 CST 1998

I think the confusion that many English speaking people have with names
of families and higher taxa that are plural is that what we are really
wanting to say is:  "the family Asteraceae is ...." and so sometimes
find "Asteraceae are ...." a little odd.

English does not really have a direct parallel; we can say "The aster
family is ...", but the word "asters" in English does not mean
Asteraceae; it means members of the genus Aster.  So "asters are ...."
really has a different subject.

John McNeill
  John McNeill, Director Emeritus, Royal Ontario Museum,
  100 Queen's Park, Toronto, Ontario, M5S 2C6, Canada.
  Tel. and fax # 416-586-5744  e-mail: johnm at
______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Subject: plural collective nouns
Author:  "JOSEPH E. LAFERRIERE" <josephl at AZTEC.ASU.EDU> at Internet
Date:    28/10/1998 17:25

>Is it logical to use plural grammer if the
>taxon just happens to have a plural Latin name, but not if it
>doesn't? They are all single concepts despite containing multiple
>component taxa (usually, apart from monophyletic taxa).
>The government is (or maybe are?).

First, the correct spelling is "grammar." Second, compare the following

The government of France is ...
The governments of France and Germany are ...

The "government" is not a plural word. It is singular. Period.
Note the lack of "-s" on the end. However, "Asteraceae" is
a plural word.

Dr. Joseph E. Laferriere
"Computito ergo sum ...  I link therefore I am."

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