is/are was/were British American English


I have noticed a rise in the use of the more-British  is/are, was/were here in the States. Particularly by broadcasters.  Is this a rising trend your experts are seeing as well?  Examples:

Instead of "The band is..." or "The family was..." it's "The band are..." or "The family were..."  I am a speech/language pathologist and find the global influences on language particularly fascinating.

4 answers


I'm South African living in the Gulf, and I simply distinguish between the singular and plural in this case in terms of my intended meaning. Singular simply is a reference to a collective whole, and plural is a reference to individual distinction comprising the whole. I have American and English colleagues who do the same.

link comment answered Jun 01 '13 at 22:44 Ahmad Barnard Expert

This is a great question. I've noticed exactly the same thing, and being American, I've found it odd to hear some singular -- albeit collective -- nouns used with 3rd person plural verb forms. I think you've hit the nail on the head about global influences that a language can experience. I think American English is being influenced in some ways by British English, and vice versa. I've noticed Americanisms popping up in British speech on various UK television shows. It really is a very interesting phenomenon.

link comment answered Jun 04 '13 at 20:31 Richard Firsten Contributor

Following on from Richard's response, as a Brit (living in France!) I have also noticed more and more UK TV programmes contain those Americanisms - one of the common ones is "gotten" which is never right!  Even my wife used it (tried to use it!) the other day!

I also heard "waiting on line" rather than "queueing".

link answered Jun 06 '13 at 06:00 Andy Carter New member

Americans use the word "line" instead of the British preferred word for line "queuing".

Michelle PepperJun 08 '13 at 22:26

US English would be "waiting in line," not "waiting on line."

Canadians may are may not use the US usage. People in Vancouver will tend to US usage more often than other places in Canada, but it isn't a hard and fast rule.

Bob ChapmanMar 19 '15 at 22:50

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Collective nouns: if the team/group/herd/class is acting as a whole, then we have a singular subject and a singular verb: "The team is arriving tonight," or "The commettee is working on the case." If the members of a collective noun are acting as individuals (each one on his or her own), then this noun takes a plural verb and pronoun: "The team are collecting their gear from the field." The only exception (to the best of my knowledge) is the collective noun "police" -- it always takes a plural noun: "The police were all over the place." This rule (unlike others :) is valid for both British and American English.

link comment answered Jun 07 '13 at 03:28 Elin Tomov Contributor

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