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I'm telling a story and I reach to this sentence:

A group of dogs emerges from the darkness of the forest

and I'm wondering if it is better to say

A group of dogs emerge from the darkness of the forest

Do we give more importance to the individuals within a group, when we opt for 'the singular verb form'?

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    The question of whether to use a singular or plural verb in instances of this kind has been a frequently visited topic on EL&U. Take a look at this question in particular. Or else search "singular or plural" on EL&U. But in your case here, it would be perfectly idiomatic to use either.
    – WS2
    Feb 20 at 7:48
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    Not related to your question, but “darkness of forest” is wrong, by the way. You need an article there—almost certainly “darkness of the forest,” though in some unusual contexts you might maybe use “darkness of a forest.”
    – KRyan
    Feb 21 at 6:13
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    Not for the telling of your tale, but for addressing the Question here, can you say how and why the dogs came to be in group, and what happened next? Dogs that somehow "belong" together always form a "pack." A native user of British English would only ever use the term "group" to emphasise that the dogs had nothing in common but co-incidentally being together there and then. Plural nouns and group names are common themes on SE ELL… More: Feb 24 at 19:27
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    Further: Consider club, company, crowd, firm, team, mob… the main difference being group or pack normally would need the specification "of dogs" while club of sportsmen, company of entrepreneurs, crowd of people, firm of lawyers, team of players or mob of demonstrators are usually taken for granted. Feb 24 at 19:31
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    @BMofSpadana However relevant anything else might be, can you either explain or drop all Question of "intensity"? Feb 28 at 19:56

4 Answers 4

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Both the plural "emerge" and singular "emerges" are correct.

"Group" is in a category of nouns called "group nouns". This category includes, army, family, team, gang, and so on. They can be either singular or plural, depending on what you want to focus on.

In your example, without the full context, I can't say which sounds more intense. And even with the context, it would likely still be up to the storyteller what they want to emphasize.

For instance, it could be intense that there are a lot of individuals where the listener might have been expecting just a single dog or two. Or it might be more intense that the dogs are coordinated, acting as a single group, rather than as bunch of individuals.

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    The answer is most certainly "emerges". "of dogs" is a prepositional phrase and therefore irrelevant to the subject-verb agreement.
    – Marvin
    Feb 20 at 23:06
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    @Marvin "of dogs" is irrelevant to the subject-verb agreement, but as I said in my answer, and as the British Council link states, this is a group noun, and group nouns can be either singular or plural.
    – gotube
    Feb 21 at 1:45
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    Per the link, group nouns, including “group,” can be singular or plural—I agree with their examples. I don’t agree that this sentence could treat “group” as plural. In every case, the use of the group noun as a plural involves an elided switch to referring to the members of the group, specifically things about them that they each have, but which are not features of the group as a whole. “Their minds,” “their hands,” etc. “Emerging from the dark of [the] forest” doesn’t fit the bill.
    – KRyan
    Feb 21 at 6:11
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    The verb 'to be' is a special case, because the object is the subject. You can reframe that sentence as "The boys are the largest group." Frankly, I'm shocked by those BC examples.
    – benwiggy
    Feb 21 at 13:17
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    @BCLC see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Council for details.
    – mdewey
    Feb 21 at 16:50
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The statement "Group" is in a category of nouns called "group nouns" concerning whether group can be singular or plural is not in dispute.

The answer to the question overlooks the original sentence.

"A group ..."

The subject is "a" group which is most definitely singular - a single group.

Temporarily putting aside the composition of the group, namely the dogs, which is the correct form --

"A group emerges from the darkness ..."

or

"A group emerge from the darkness ..."

To be grammatically correct, the verb needs to be in the appropriate form to match the singular subject which is the singular form "emerges".

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    Can you provide a link to a resource that explains why we cannot consider "group" to be singular in this circumstance, but we can in others? How is this sentence different from these examples in the linked resource in my answer: "The government (singular) are always changing their minds", "The largest group (singular) are the boys", and "The United Oil Company (singular) are putting prices up by 12 per cent"?
    – gotube
    Feb 21 at 7:09
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    This answer just seems completely wrong to me. Sorry. Both sound fine. Native British English speaker. As @gotube linked in his answer, "a group" can take either singular or plural, sometimes used to subtly emphasise either the individuals or the group cohesiveness, but other times just chosen for seemingly no reason at all.
    – Muzer
    Feb 21 at 10:32
  • @gotube Your examples sound horrid and incorrect to me. (British English). Companies, organisations, etc have traditionally been singular in journalistic Style Guides. "Microsoft is releasing the software next week". A group (of things) is.
    – benwiggy
    Feb 21 at 13:13
  • @gotube It should definitely be "the largest group is the boys", since the size is a property of the group (singular) and not of the individuals in the group. "The government are always changing their minds" is really short for "The people who make up the government are always changing their minds"; it is the people (plural), rather than the government itself, who actually have minds to change. Feb 21 at 14:25
  • @EspeciallyLime You should give a link that backs you up. British Council is a highly regarded resource on ESL.
    – gotube
    Feb 22 at 1:19
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I think the former is better. The point is that the only reason to use the word "group" here in the first place is if they are already moving as a group, so you are really talking about the group as a whole (singular) emerging, rather than the individual dogs (plural) emerging.

If you wanted to talk about the dogs as individuals, then you would just say "several dogs emerge from the darkness of the forest".

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  • Excellent answer. This is like fish vs fishes: The issue there is if you're talking about 'fishes = several kinds of fish (singular)' or 'fish (plural) = more than 1 fish (singular)'. In this case, it's about if you're talking about the dogs as a group or each individual dog who happens to be part of a group. (or maybe better than fish vs fishes is like....each vs all)
    – BCLC
    Feb 21 at 15:04
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'A group of dogs emerge' and 'A group of dogs emerges' are both correct.

Group can take a singular or a plural verb. The choice depends on whether we see group as a whole or as a number of individuals.

A group of dogs emerge - (individuals)

A group of dogs emerges - (whole)

Group nouns - group, crowd, team, club, public, population, army, crew, family, government, class, committee etc.

In British English a group noun can take either a singular or a plural verb.

But in American English a group noun takes a singular verb.

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    Why the downvote(s)? This is the correct answer. Feb 21 at 22:50
  • Because I speak American English, and group nouns can take plural verbs. For instance, "My family live all over the place"
    – gotube
    Sep 29 at 19:17

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