"is" or "are" when the subject is a a collective noun


Which is correct:


Most of the team is away?




Most of the team are away?



asked Jan 31 '14 at 13:10 Graham New member

3 answers


Two things:

(1) "team" is not the subject of your sentence; "most" is the subject of your sentence.


Luckily for you, "most" is one of the indefinite pronouns that can be either singular or plural based on the object of the preposition that follows it.


As it turns out, the object of the preposition is "team", which means we do need to see if it is singular plural.


(2) Telling if a collective noun is singular or plural.

A collective noun is singular if it is acting as one group:

"The football team is winning its game."  (a football team wins as one, so it is singular)


A collective noun is plural when the members of the noun act separately:

"The golf team are winning their games."


The subject in both sentences above is "team", yet one is singular and one is plural.



Applied to your sentence:

"Most of the team is/are away."  would depend upon what they are doing.


Are they away (together) to play a football game?

"Most of the team is away."


Are they away (separate) for Christmas vacation?

"Most of the team are away."


Decide upon whether they are acting as one unit or separately, then decide which verb agrees.



To anyone who wants to argue:  You are wrong.

link comment edited Feb 01 '14 at 04:09 Aaron Prejean Expert

Good explanation, Aaron. Thanks for correcting me!



link comment answered Feb 08 '14 at 01:58 Karen OKeefe Contributor

Hi Graham,


I believe it should be "Most of the team are away."


Cheers!  :D

link comment answered Jan 31 '14 at 23:17 Karen OKeefe Contributor

Your answer

Write at least 20 characters

Have a question about English grammar, style or vocabulary use? Ask now to get help from Grammarly experts for FREE.