group noun singular or plural


Are group nouns like team or police singular or plural?

The team (is/are ) preparing for the next game.
Police (is/are ) looking for the suspects.


Posted 2016-07-12T22:46:00.920


"The team" is singular. – Catija – 2016-07-12T22:47:11.667

"Police" is a special case: see

– P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica – 2016-07-12T23:41:12.470

@Catjia Team is usually singular, but BE allows the plural much more often than AmE. The GloWbE corpus has an almost even number of "team is" and "team are" tokens for the US (31304) and UK (35196), but for "team are" the UK has 13244 tokens to the US 3619! – eijen – 2016-07-13T00:25:00.187



Group nouns are a bit tricky in English. We call them "collective nouns,"* as they usually represent plural quantities. "Team" is a collective noun, as it represents a group of people. However, "team" is singular**, as there can be more than one team (teams). The singular form of "to be" for this situation would be "is." "Police," although it is also a collective noun, it defaults to "are,"since there is no widely used plural form.

In summary, here's a checklist*** for dealing with words that might be collective nouns:

  1. Does the word typically represent a group of items? (Ex: furniture, police, team)
    • If yes, continue to 2.
    • If no, it is not a collective noun.
  2. Does the word have a widely used plural form? (Ex: team)
    • If yes, it is (technically) a collective noun. (Use "is," when the word is in singular form)
    • If no, continue to 3.
  3. Can the word have an indefinite article?
    • If yes, it is not a collective noun.
    • If no, it is a collective noun. (Use "are")

*Not to be confused with mass nouns, which are nouns that can't have plurals (often because they can't be counted). Ex. happiness, china (the dishware), furniture
**As a commenter noted, there may be a difference in British English. I am writing from the perspective of American English.
***If you have a way to improve this checklist (I was a bit tired when I wrote this), feel free to comment your suggestions!

Sam K

Posted 2016-07-12T22:46:00.920

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