With the Toronto Blue Jays playing their first game of the season tonight, who can think straight? The Jays have a lot of talent this year, but I’m most excited to see R. A. Dickey‘s knuckleball and the shortstop moves of Jose Reyes. I’m going to Sunday’s game against Boston, but who knows who will be pitching. Fingers crossed that I get to see Dickey. (The Globe and Mail has a fun interactive piece on Dickey here.)
So, with the Jays weighing heavily on my mind, today I offer some tips on collective nouns – nouns such as team, league, staff, management, administration. The rule is both simple and easy: treat collective nouns as singular unless the members are acting as individuals.
The team looks (singular verb) promising this year.
The team are (plural verb) looking around for their freshly pressed jerseys.
Management is (singular verb) ready to get tough.
Management disagree (plural verb) about the best course of action.
Of course, if you feel that the plural sounds unnatural, you can always recast the sentence: The members of the team are looking around for their freshly pressed jerseys.
Now let’s throw in a knuckleball and see how it breaks: The phrase a number of is plural, and the phrase the number of is singular. (This rule isn’t exclusive to collective nouns, by the way.)
A number of people are expected at the opener tonight.
The number of people with season tickets is unusually high this year.
Hmm. I wonder if the number of season tickets holders is unusually high this year. You’d think it would be. And I wish I were one of them.