Last modified on 27 August 2009, at 20:53

SAT Study Guide/Part 4 - The Writing Section/Identifying Sentence Errors/Identifying Singular and Plural Subjects

Identifying Singular and Plural SubjectsEdit

Subjects that are Plural and SingularEdit

Some subjects can act as either a plural or a singular subject. Collective nouns like family or team are either singular or plural depending on the context.

The majority prefers chocolate ice cream.
The majority have vanilla ice cream cones.

In the first sentence, The majority is taken as a single unit. We're not saying the whole group prefers chocolate ice cream, only the singular majority does. In the second sentence, we use have, a plural verb, because a majority of the group implies multiple people. Thus, we use a plural verb form.

Other common collective nouns include

  • Committee
  • Band
  • Dozen
  • Audience
  • Flock
  • Pack

Here are some examples:

1)A dozen eggs are eight dollars.
2)The platoon is returning to their homes.

Answers

1) A dozen eggs is eight dollars.
Dozen is singular in this context. The whole set costs $8, not each individual egg.

2) The platoon are returning to their homes.
The platoon consists of soldiers that live in their own homes. The whole platoon doesn't live in one house. Each soldier lives in his or her own home.


Plural Subjects that Sound SingularEdit

Some words like the names of countries, diseases, institutions and books may sound plural but they are actually singular nouns. The United States is a singular noun. The measles is a singular noun. For native English speakers, generally if you can put a "The" before the noun and the phrase doesn't sound wrong to you the noun is probably singular. "The World Series", "The Olympics", "The Netherlands" are all examples of singular subjects that look plural.

Here are some examples:

1) The United Arab Emirates are a federation of 7 emirates in the Arabian peninsula.
2) The 2012 Summer Olympics are being held in London.

Answers

1)The United Arab Emirates is a federation of 7 emirates in the Arabian peninsula.
The United Arab Emirates is a single entity so it needs a singular verb to go along with it.

2)The 2012 Summer Olympics is being held in London.
Although the Olympics is a collection of different sports, the Olympics themselves is a singular object.