query

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is it

 

My family HAVE been on Vancouver Island or

 

My family has been on Vancouver Island

asked Jan 29 '13 at 05:11 Cheryl MacKinnon New member

2 answers


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My family, no matter how many people it includes, is a singular noun. Therefore, "my family HAS been on Vancouver Island" would be the correct phrase.

link comment answered Jan 29 '13 at 06:02 Tony Proano Expert
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First of all, "been to Vancouver Island" sounds more natural, I think.

 

Secondly, Tony's answer applies only to American, or maybe North American English. British English tends to more often than not treat collective nouns like "family" or "government" as plural, and make the verb agree with a plural subject, especially when considering the members of the collective individually. As a Canadian, I'm fairly centrist on this issue, and would replace 'especially' in that last sentence with "ONLY".

 

To me, "My family has dinner together every Sunday" sounds correct because it is the collective whole, but "My family are fighting amongst themselves" sounds okay because the family members are being described individually. Such a distinction probably makes American grammar geeks' skin crawl: Americans would be much more inclined to say "The members of my family are fighting amongst themselves."

 

Getting back to Cheryl's question, did the entire family go to Vancouver Island at the same time, or at different times?

 

If at the same time, a North American would say it the way Tony has.  However, a British speaker might say "My family have been to Vancouver Island," in the same way that the BBC regularly makes pronouncement like "The government have announced...." (that last one makes MY skin crawl).

 

If at different times, an American would probably say something like "Members of my family have been to Vancouver Island," but a Canadian or British speaker would say "My family have been to Vancouver Island."

link comment edited Jan 29 '13 at 17:44 Shawn Mooney Expert

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