Identifying the subject of a verb In a complex sentence a verb can be a long way from its subject and it is easy to get confused about whether it should be singular or plural. Group nouns Group nouns may not end with ‘s’ or ‘es’, but they still have a plural meaning as they refer to a large number of people or things. Words like police, government, class, crowd, team, public, audience, press, family, community, population and staff are examples of group nouns. If the word is used to refer to the group as a single unit, use a singular verb: A child’s family has a huge influence on his or her education. The teacher reported that the class was very well behaved. If the word is used to refer to the various members in the group, use a plural verb: The child’s family were not all living in the same house. The class were from different cultural and economic backgrounds. Note that ‘police’ is always used with a plural verb: The police regularly visit the school to give talks to the pupils. Everybody, everyone, nobody and no one are grammatically singular words and so must be used with singular verbs: Everybody in the teaching profession is in agreement about the new policy.
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