use plural, or singular with definite article



The following sentence is from my favourite English teacher on the internet.

'Women play a more important role than ever in raising the family'

Why is it that "the family" is used? Shouldn't it be (their) families since the subject is "Women" which is plural.

I also wonder why it couldn't be 'Women play a more important role than ever in raising families' The sentence is speaking that women (in general) are raising families (in general) I do not know why but it does not sound very right to say families.

Because I have my rule in my grammar set back in a few years ago

'Men (plural) have dicks (plural)'

It was confirmed that the sentence is correct by native English speaker so I thought 'Aha! when subject is plural and possess the object, then the object also becomes plural! because man => a dick, men => dicks'. But the rule does't seem to be quite correct in many contexts.


Eugene Yu

Posted 2015-03-24T06:26:42.103

Reputation: 33



It is correct either way—(plural) women raising (plural) families, or women (in general) raising "the family" (as a sort of metonymy—"the family" as an abstract, collective moniker for all the families in the country.)

Brian Hitchcock

Posted 2015-03-24T06:26:42.103

Reputation: 8 181


I was always taught that in cases like this that the 'raising the family' is the act in which the women are playing a more important role than ever.

As you state, this could equally be written as Women play a more important role than ever in raising their families.

I would suggest that this is placing different emphasis on what they are playing a more important role in - The first is the general concept of raising the family - not necessarily their own family, but as an extended group of non-related people, such as childminders, friends of the family etc., whereas the second is specifically referring to their own relatives.

Apologies for the thread necromancy.


Posted 2015-03-24T06:26:42.103

Reputation: 129