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# Singular or Plural?

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Senior Manager
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01 May 2007, 16:07
The following sentence is from a GMAT Sentence Correction book.
"Although I own their album, I have never seen the band in concert"

This sentence sounds fine, but since "the band" is a singular collective noun, shouldn't "their" be replaced with "its???"

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Manager
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05 Jun 2013, 15:00

My impression is that either 'its' or 'their' would be appropriate in this sentence, because 'their' is supposedly accepted now for singular pronouns.

I've found discussions on Google stating that they/their is acceptable, but haven't found any formal statement of this from any reliable authority.

Can anyone provide a link to somewhere official that states that they/their is acceptable for singular use? Or, more specifically, that this is definitely allowed on the GMAT?

Thanks!
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13 Jun 2013, 17:34
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Here is the deal with Collective Nouns (a noun that refers to a group of people or objects - army, crowd, team, band...)

Collective Nouns are almost always considered singular. In rare cases collective nouns can be considered plural when you want to emphasize the individual parts of the group, not the group itself. Your example fits this exception (though it feels like a bit of a stretch): "Although I own their album, I have never seen the band in concert". Because you are talking about seeing them in concert, you could imply that you want to emphasize the members of the band, not the group itself. For the most part, when you see a collective noun, treat it as singular.

KW
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Kyle Widdison | Manhattan GMAT Instructor | Utah

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13 Jun 2013, 19:45
KyleWiddison wrote:
Here is the deal with Collective Nouns (a noun that refers to a group of people or objects - army, crowd, team, band...)

Collective Nouns are almost always considered singular. In rare cases collective nouns can be considered plural when you want to emphasize the individual parts of the group, not the group itself. Your example fits this exception (though it feels like a bit of a stretch): "Although I own their album, I have never seen the band in concert". Because you are talking about seeing them in concert, you could imply that you want to emphasize the members of the band, not the group itself. For the most part, when you see a collective noun, treat it as singular.

KW

Hi Kyle,

You are absolutely correct that Collective nouns can be singular as well as plural. But in this case, the plural is not appropriate
Although I own their album, I have never seen the band in concert
In this sentence THEIR refers to band members (as implied & mentioned by you), but if we use THEIR, then it has no ANTECEDENT (BAND MEMBERS) in the sentence. As far as i know, a pronoun can not exist in a sentence without a proper & definitive antecedent

Although I own its album, I have never seen the band in concert
ITS is singular & the proper antecedent BAND is also present in the sentence.

Fame
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13 Jun 2013, 20:44
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fameatop wrote:
KyleWiddison wrote:
Here is the deal with Collective Nouns (a noun that refers to a group of people or objects - army, crowd, team, band...)

Collective Nouns are almost always considered singular. In rare cases collective nouns can be considered plural when you want to emphasize the individual parts of the group, not the group itself. Your example fits this exception (though it feels like a bit of a stretch): "Although I own their album, I have never seen the band in concert". Because you are talking about seeing them in concert, you could imply that you want to emphasize the members of the band, not the group itself. For the most part, when you see a collective noun, treat it as singular.

KW

Hi Kyle,

You are absolutely correct that Collective nouns can be singular as well as plural. But in this case, the plural is not appropriate
Although I own their album, I have never seen the band in concert
In this sentence THEIR refers to band members (as implied & mentioned by you), but if we use THEIR, then it has no ANTECEDENT (BAND MEMBERS) in the sentence. As far as i know, a pronoun can not exist in a sentence without a proper & definitive antecedent

Although I own its album, I have never seen the band in concert
ITS is singular & the proper antecedent BAND is also present in the sentence.

Fame

This is why treating collective nouns as plural is difficult (unless you are from England). When we treat a collective noun as plural we are talking about the members of the group, not the group itself. Here is an example: "I finally went to see the band in concert and they were all crazy." This sounds very strange to the ear because we almost exclusively treat collective nouns as singular. In my example, "they" refers to the band, but I'm emphasizing the members of the band, not the overall group so "they" is an appropriate pronoun with "band" as the antecedent (remember that "band" is in the plural).

In the original example, "Although I own their album, I have never seen the band in concert.", we are treating "band" in the same way as my example. The word "band" is plural so the plural pronoun "their" is appropriate.

Let me emphasize again, this plural is a very rare case that we are analyzing. On the GMAT, you should treat collective nouns as singular by rule. Exceptions may arise when the GMAT wants to emphasize the members, but those exceptions will be very rare.

KW
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Re: Singular or Plural?   [#permalink] 13 Jun 2013, 20:44
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