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When using verb with the plural of a noun, does the verb apply to each one individually or to the group collectively?

The men are working hard

Does this mean that each man is working hard, or that the men are working hard collectively, i.e a few men may not work hard?

My friends have a job

I consider this sentence to mean that each friend has a job, but is that correct?

1 Answer 1

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The men are working hard collectively. If you wanted to mention that some of them were working less hard, you would need to say so.

My friends have a job could mean that they are collaborating on a task. If they have a different job each, it's My friends have jobs.

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  • Thank you. So, the first sentence could actually be true despite a few men not working hard? In “the men are all working hard” or “all men are working hard”, does the presence of “all” mean that each man is working hard?
    – Shuzheng
    Sep 30, 2021 at 11:38
  • Yes, if you want to emphasise that every man is working hard you can use the men are all... or all the men are... (not all men, which would mean that all the men in the world were working hard!) Sep 30, 2021 at 12:37
  • Thank you, Kate. Are you talking from experience, or where can such rules regarding meaning be looked up?
    – Shuzheng
    Sep 30, 2021 at 12:39
  • I'm telling you how I, as a native speaker, would interpret those sentences. Sep 30, 2021 at 12:41

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