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Was / were

Forum > English only || Bottom

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Was / were
Message from mohammad51 posted on 17-10-2018 at 10:17:14 (D | E | F)
I think this is wrong. Here a quiz in this forum :

The jury..... unanimous in their verdict. was or were ?
The page answered it or the owner of the quiz suggested ( was ), but it is wrong.
If not the pronoun ( their ) it maybe ( was), but as ( their) is mentioned, then it is plural not singular.

Edited by lucile83 on 17-10-2018 16:58

Re: Was / were from gerondif, posted on 17-10-2018 at 11:41:05 (D | E)
We can have :
The football team is playing well. team has a global meaning and is singular.
The team are having a shower: we consider each player and the team is now considered as a plural.
We also have :
A man is helping the police with their enquiry. The police is singular but composed of several people, hence "their" enquiry.
It must be the same with your jury.

Re: Was / were from mohammad51, posted on 17-10-2018 at 19:13:04 (D | E)
Good night
Dear gerondif, in your last sentence:
A man is helping the police with their inquiry. As I know the noun police everywhere is considered plural only in US perhaps they use either singular verb or plural. If we want to use as singular, we would say .. a policeman or policewoman.
Then the sentence is grammatically correct ... The plural pronoun refers to the ( police)
It is impossible to say that ( their ) refers to ( one ).
Team = singular .. But if we say " team members ) then surely >>>> plural verb . Team = collective noun, we can use either plural verb or singular after it according to our intention, whether we mean the members or as a group .... this is known and does not need further explanation.
One word to say for you, " If any reference is mentioned in the sentence referring to a plural ... then a plural verb should be used, if not the singular verb is your choice.
look :
The team ........ going to practice for their last game. ( as individuals) then are not is
The team ... going to practice. It is obviously as a group.
Thank you

Re: Was / were from gerondif, posted on 17-10-2018 at 19:50:08 (D | E)
While looking for examples, I found on the net: (Irish law)

The jury fulfils a very important function in the legal system...

The jury must reach its verdict by considering only the evidence introduced in court and the directions of the judge. The jury does not interpret the law. It follows the directions of the judge as regards legal matters.(singular)


A Court Garda or other official is required to keep the jury together until the verdict is reached. The jury is taken(singular) into the jury room and allowed no outside communication at all, with the exception of notes to the Court Registrar. They may keep a copy of the indictment, the exhibits and their notes.(ah, plural appears!)

When the jury has reached its decision(singular), it will return to the court and the verdict will be read out by the foreman or forewoman.

Of course , it would be simpler to say :
The jurors were unanimous with their decision.
The jury was unanimous in its verdict.
But as the jury is composed of jurors, it is easy to have a foot on each bank.
It is a bit like: everyone was looking at their notes, the their avoids having to choose between his or her and its would be wrong.

Re: Was / were from jonquille, posted on 17-10-2018 at 20:11:33 (D | E)
As a native speaker , I will tell you how I would look at your question.

The team ........ going to practice for their last game.
The team = singular noun, thus "is"
However, "the team" comprises many players, thus "their game."

Yes, it's confusing to think that a singular noun would (could) use a plural possessive adjective, but it's true!

A man is helping the police with their inquiry.
The police = singular noun = "is"
The police as a unit, comprises many policemen/policewomen = their inquiry.

Try this, too: The choir has their music.
The choir = singular noun = "has"
The choir comprises many singers = plural possessive adjective: their music

So, for your question: The jury ... unanimous in their verdict.
The jury = singular noun
The jury comprises many jurors = plural possessive adjective

I'm not sure if I confused the issue more, or clarified it. But I hope I helped in some way!

Re: Was / were from mohammad51, posted on 17-10-2018 at 23:07:53 (D | E)
In the sentence ( A man is helping the police with their inquiry).
subject \ verb agreement is correct here .... (Is helping )refers to the man = the subject
police = object whether it is plural or singular, it does not affect by the verb.
I said if ( their ) refers to the subject we can't use ( singular verb )
The team ........ going to practice for their last game.
The team = singular noun, thus "is"
However, "the team" comprises many players, thus "their game
team = singular noun .... Yes, but ( their ) why not (its) ? to be a true singular ?
I think any reference as we called ( anaphoric reference\ cataphoric reference) So their refers to team.
How a singular word and a possessive adj ( their ) if not treated or just in one's mind understood as plural.
Please take this into consideration. Yes, singular, but understood as plural.
For Jury also a singular verb is used after it.

For me I reached this idea:
" Use singular verbafter any collective noun, if there is no reference guides you that the word is used as plural".

Re: Was / were from gerondif, posted on 17-10-2018 at 23:46:08 (D | E)
I rather agree with Jonquille, but you are free to have your grammatical preferences.

Re: Was / were from lucile83, posted on 18-10-2018 at 15:49:47 (D | E)
jonquille is right.
For instance, if you talk about the institution you'll say: the police is necessary.
If you talk about the people working in that institution you'll say: the police have arrested a lot of thieves.
That is really simple.

Re: Was / were from jonquille, posted on 18-10-2018 at 20:33:44 (D | E)
Hello again!

I was curious enough to see what my colleagues thought, so I discussed this with them today.

In the sentences:
The team ........ going to practice for their last game.
A man is helping the police with their inquiry.
The choir has their music
The jury ... unanimous in their verdict

As you stated, "its" is, indeed, grammatically correct (singular pronoun).
The problem seems to come from the differences between British and American English.

British English (from what I've read/heard), considers the entities (police, team, etc) as plural, and thus, uses a plural verb form, followed by the plural possessive adjectives (their)
> The choir have their music.
> The jury were unanimous in their verdict.

American English considers the entities as singular, and uses a singular verb form followed by a singular possessive adjective (its).
>The choir has its music.
> The jury was unanimous in its verdict.

And here in New England -- it seems we often prefer a "blend" of both, though not necessarily grammatically correct!

So there you have it! I do not profess to be a teacher of English. Indeed much of my knowledge of English grammar comes from learning the grammar of other languages! But I do know that language is constantly evolving, so trying to determine that which is grammatically correct (proper) from that which is accepted, requires you to know to whom you are speaking or writing (your audience). Often that which is written, is quite different from that which is spoken. And then there is the age-old conflict -- the more you say something to determine its correctness, the more confused you become!

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