A Group Of People Is Or Are?

Have you ever wondered the subject “a group of people” takes plural or singular verb? What about other collective nouns like family, team, audience, herd, etc? Should we treat them as singular or plural? Keep reading on to know the answer to these questions.


We all know that a singular subject takes a singular verb, whereas a plural subject always goes with a plural verb. That is definitely the most basic subject-verb agreement rule that all learners of English were taught in the very first grammar lessons.

But if we give you a collective noun such as a group (of people), then what do you think it is singular or plural subject? Does it take singular or plural verb? To illustrate to this question, we’ll give 2 sentences and what you need to do here is to choose the one that you think it’s grammatically correct.

1. A group of people is riding bike.

2. A group of people are riding bike.

Are you done? Which one is correct in your opinion? Now, it’s time for us to find the answer to this question. But first, we need to check out the important subject-verb agreement rules with collective nouns, then you yourself will know whether “a group of people” takes is or are?

What are Collective nouns?

Collective nouns are considered a category of noun in English. They refer to groups of people, animals, or thingsconsidered as a whole. Words like group, herd, flock, team, class, family, band, board, audience, array, and so on are among very common collective nouns in English.

For example:

My family travelled to Thailand last month.

I really love my team.

The herd of cows is walking in the field.

Now, you are clear about what collective nouns are. Let’s move on to learn about the subject and verb agreement with collective nouns in the next part of this writing.

Subject-Verb agreement with collective nouns

The general rule is that it’s okay for us totreat most collective nouns as either plural or singular. Everything depends on the context of the sentence.

If the noun is considered as a single unit, it’s used with a singular verb.

For example: The team is winning the game. (The team is seen as a single unit.)

But if the focus is on the individuals of the group, it’s appropriate to use plural verb here.

For example: The team have cooperated so well. (Team is seen as more than one individual.)

Note: According to oxforddictionaries.com, most collective nouns are treated as singular in American English, while they can be treated as either plural or singular in British English (like the rule mentioned above.). However, using a plural is also acceptable in AmE if the writer/speaker wants to emphasize the individuals of a group.

A group of people is or are

According to the subject-verb agreement with collective nouns listed above, either “a group of people is” or “a group of people are” is acceptable. That, of course, depends on what you want to emphasize or focus on. Do you want to mention to “a group of people” as a unit or many people in that group? Answer this question first, then you will know the verb form you need to use is singular or plural.

​For example:

A group of people is playing football. -- Correct

A group of people are on their bikes running towards the city center. -- Correct

Wrap up

To be honest, it’s not easy to decide whether a collective noun is used with plural or singular verb because it really depends on the emphasis of the sentence. But with everything we mentioned in this post, we hope that for now on, you will no longer wonder or get confused when it comes to matching verbs to collective nouns.

If you find this post useful and interesting, don’t forget to like and share it. Thanks you for readingour today’s article!

Minor keywords: subject verb agreement with collective nouns, herd of cows, collective nouns in English, what are collective nouns.

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