America Comprehended: Collective nouns and singular verbs

by awindram

COLLECTIVE NOUNS AND SINGULAR VERBS: The last month, for fairly obvious World Cup-related reasons, I have been flicking through the sports pages of American newspapers more often than usual. Reading reports of World Cup games I have been reminded of one of those irritating British-English and American-English grammatical discrepancies that trips up and makes a fool of the expat on either side of the Atlantic; in this case, whether to use a singular or plural verb with a collective noun. “Brazil is losing badly to Germany,” sounds leaden and just plain wrong to me, whereas “Brazil are losing badly to Germany,” sounds perfectly natural, and is how I have always unthinkingly talked to the locals about sports teams, but presumably all this time – and assuming the average American isn’t au fait with the quirks of British-English – I have sounded ever-so-slightly moronic.

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