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I was listening to a podcast when I noticed this sentence, "Which, of course, every group has done..."

So, I wasn't sure if "has" or "have" should be used in that case. Then I googled the two forms and "every group have done" got almost no results, while "every group has done" got hundreds of thousands. Though I wasn't totally satisfied yet, which made me try googling the two sentences again but switching the noun "group" to "country", and I got hundreds of thousands of results to both sentences.

My question is... What's going on? What's the proper usage and why were the results so different after I switch the nouns? Isn't group and country, basically equivalent nouns?

  • I think you are mixing usage in statements and questions. Make sure all examples are one or the other. – user3169 Oct 26 '17 at 19:42
  • I don't find any results for "every country have done" - you have to be careful to not count things like "Volunteer Forces in every country have done". – ColleenV parted ways Oct 26 '17 at 20:04
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It is a collective noun, so it depends on what rule you might follow. Here, in the United States, we treat almost every collective noun as singular despite its being plural in nature. For example:

"The group has done a good job presenting its project."

"The jury is deliberating the man's fate."

"England is going to win its match tonight."

"The government has passed another one of its stupid laws."

"The Johnson family is having dinner at its own house for once."

However, the British and other English-speaking countries often treat the collective nouns above as either singular or plural depending upon the context. When they want to talk about the "group as a whole", they use a singular verb; when they want to talk about the "individual members of the group", they use a plural verb. For example:

"The group (members) have done a good job presenting their project."

"The jury (members) are deliberating the man's fate."

"England are going to win their match tonight." (i.e. "The England team members")

"The government (members) have passed another one of their stupid laws."

"The Johnson family (members) are having dinner at their own house for once."

There are nouns that are always treated as plural, no matter what English-speaking country you might be in. Some of those are collective nouns involving a people of a country:

The French are...

The English are...

The Spanish are...

Also everyone uses a plural with the collective noun "police":

"The police are (not is) just doing their job."

However, this could differ when talking about specific police agencies by name:

"The FBI (are / is) investigating the situation to determine what charges (they / it) may file."

"The IRS (know / knows) everything about my finances."

I hope that might have helped you understand this difficult grammatical concept. Take care and good luck in your studies!

P.S. I had not seen the word "every" used above as in "every group has done" prior to my writing this answer. When the word "every" precedes a collective noun, it will always be singular.

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