4

I have seen a company description as follows:
We [company name] is a specialized manufacturer of…
Is the verb agreement correct here?

2 Answers 2

3

It's an appallingly ungrammatical construction, caused by someone trying to slavishly follow the principle that in American English, collective nouns almost always trigger singular verb agreement. That issue doesn't arise in "British English", since we quite naturally use singular or plural for things like company, family, group, according to context.

But I don't think any competent speaker (not even an American) would actually produce OP's example. So presumably the company (or at least, the speaker) is not a native speaker of English.

9
  • Collective nouns are the one thing that have always boggled my mind. Though AmE/BrE use them differently in speech, we still get taught the "proper" way in school (or at least we did when I was in school). And I just could not get it. To this day the "correct"/BrE way of using collective nouns confuses the life out of me...
    – WendiKidd
    Mar 20, 2014 at 0:17
  • The rule I was taught was something like "if you're talking about everyone it's one way, but if you mean each individual person it's another..." And then I could never figure out how you could tell if a "team" was referring to individuals or the whole... Anyway, +1. I agree. I just don't grok the collective nouns! Maybe I should go back and try to re-learn them as an adult, but I've never bothered. (Also what's with the air quotes around British English? ;))
    – WendiKidd
    Mar 20, 2014 at 0:17
  • @Wendikidd: It seems to me the key point is implicit in your comments. I don't think Brits are normally "taught" anything about such usage, because there is no formal "rule". To me, the US "formally correct" system is obsessively rigid, and in extremis leads to ridiculous situations like OP's. The "air quotes" are because in this specific context I think BrE simply means the way people speak naturally when unfettered by inappropriate rules. Check out The FBI know/s we're here... Mar 20, 2014 at 13:11
  • ...and in both cases you'll see contexts where the FBI are referenced using they immediately afterwards. You can try to talk your way out of that by pointing to "singular 'they'", but I really don't buy it. When they're after you, the FBI are usually plural in the mind of the person being pursued. Mar 20, 2014 at 13:14
  • @FumbleFingers, your answer would be correct if the question had anything to do with the collective nouns. There is an appositive/apposition there. write.com/writing-resources-articles/general-writing/grammar/…. BTW: you are right neither the speaker nor the company is a native speaker of English. Actually they are Chinese. Mar 20, 2014 at 13:36
0

I think the author is trying to add the pronoun we just to emphasize that they are the company. So, there, it seems a superfluous word.

We-- (m dash here) XYZ Company is a specialized manufacturer of...

The verb are could have gone in that place as in this case...

We, XYZ Company, are a specialized manufacturer of...

Not the part of this answer but related to the question -

The use of plural verb after a singular noun is possible when you denote it as a group of persons. On the other hand, it'd take a singular noun if you consider that as one entity.

Compare -

The crowd was cheering seeing Sachin's batting - all people were cheering.
The crowd were clapping and shouting - some of them were clapping and others were shouting.

This can happen in case of the word company as well. Company is and Company are is possible.

Further reading here.

6
  • 2
    I am of the opinion that the "collective noun->plural verb" construction is mostly a BrE/AmE distinction, not a "part of group/all of group" distinction. I would cheerfully say "the crowd was clapping and shouting" if parts of the crowd were only clapping and other parts were only shouting; using "were" there sounds wrong to me.
    – Hellion
    Mar 19, 2014 at 20:18
  • @Hellion Isn't it surprising that every answer of mine would have a comment of AmE or BrE! Is this forum localized? As a non-native speaker do I need to confirm with the native speakers everything that I learn from books. This said, all the books on English written by non-native authors should be barred from selling. Isn't it? Don't comment now that we don't say International English is incorrect/bad; had this been the case, you wouldn't have written wrong to me. cont...
    – Maulik V
    Mar 20, 2014 at 4:26
  • Also, why don't we have English - The Way Native Takes It as an all separate forum and let this be International English, a neutral forum without any favoritism. In addition, I'm native speaker of Hindi but all what I know in Hindi is not perfect in grammar. Things are not incorrect as they simply sound off to the native speakers. At times, natives too have to learn something that actually exists but never been heard by them.
    – Maulik V
    Mar 20, 2014 at 4:29
  • @Maulik V, it’s amazing how instinctively you identified the correct spelling, comas, dashes, parenthesis, but couldn’t identify the appositive/apposition. write.com/writing-resources-articles/general-writing/grammar/…. It’s a simple subject verb agreement, where the subject is the pronoun “we”. The appositive only explains, identifies, qualifies, renames etc. the subject. Mar 20, 2014 at 13:35
  • I don't believe any significant number of native speakers would make this singular/plural distinction for a crowd, family, etc. Mar 24, 2014 at 1:05

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .