I've found this sentence in a Straightforward intermediate student's book (p7):

"I never miss." Mitty is holding a heavy automatic and the crowd believe him

Shouldn't it be like 'the crowd believes him' ?


3 Answers 3


"Crowd" is being used as a plural in your example.

Collective Nouns (group, jury, crowd, team, etc.) may be singular or plural, depending on meaning. In your example it is being used as a plural. (Source)

Here is an illustration for your understanding. Hope it helps:

enter image description here

From Oxford learners' dictionaries:

crowd: [countable + singular or plural verb] a large number of people gathered together in a public place, for example in the streets or at a sports game

The crowd was/were shouting and cheering.

  • 4
    There may be some truth in what you say, but your example doesn't support anything. Obviously the jury members are plural, because you're just using jury as a noun adjunct modifying overtly plural members. Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 16:49
  • @FumbleFingers I edited my answer and added a dictionary definition which shows it can be used as a singular or plural.
    – user41500
    Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 17:07
  • 1
    I appreciate that it's more difficult for you to "correct" that misleading second example (because it's just a graphic taken from a site with a poor quality "explanation"). But it's still a bad example. Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 17:34

Note: This is an AmE perspective (BrE is different, see comments/other answers)

Crowd is singular. Crowds is plural. You can't use crowd plurally, you have to use crowds if you mean more than one crowd.

Verbs work the opposite of nouns, verbs that end in s or es are singular third person and verbs that don't are plural third person. (Anything not third person uses the form without the s or es).

So it's always crowd believes and crowds believe.

Nouns that describe a group of X as a whole are singluar, if they refer to one of that group. If there are multiple groups of X, then plural is used.

I don't know where the pile of papers is (pile is singular because it refers to one group of paper)

I don't know where the piles of papers are (there are two or more stacks of paper)

I think it's technically wrong, but you might hear something like this where a plural pronoun is used. I'm not sure whether referring to a virtual "all of the papers" which can be argued to be implied is totally wrong here.

I took that pile of papers and threw them in the trash.

  • 1
    Just a note, JK Rowling writes "The whole crowd were on their feet..." in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. It seems that British English uses the plural form for collective nouns whereas American English prefers to use the singular in those situation. It's not a rule, so you can definitely find exceptions in both languages. But saying that "crowd" should always use the singular form is not correct. Commented Jan 16, 2023 at 20:16
  • @LucaDeNardi - I see how that works for a plural crowd and plural object feet. How does one pull that off with a singular object. Would the English say, The crowd were looking at a bird. In AmE, we freely mix the always singular crowd and plural objects. We might say, The crowd was on their feet. Strange but true.
    – EllieK
    Commented Jan 17, 2023 at 17:01

Interesting that the English (the individuals who live in England) in common usage always consider a "crowd", "team" or "mob" to be plural.

"Manchester United have finally signed what they have been missing"

  • 2
    Your post sounds slightly like commentary to me. Could you edit your post to address OP’s question a little more directly with an expalantion?
    – Em.
    Commented Jul 26, 2019 at 19:29
  • Do you have any sources to add?
    – TK-421
    Commented Jul 27, 2019 at 18:26

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