I've got a question. I know that you should generally use the singular form of a verb with collective nouns (e.g. My team is here. The herd is moving south.), but a few things confuse me with two specific nouns - police and family. I always see plurals with police. Why is that? Is it just an exception to the rule? And a few days ago I saw a sentence in my textbook saying 'Mark asked Jenny if all of her family were still in town.'. Now, I would have understood it if 'family' was followed by 'members', that's logical, but I don't understand the particular example. Could you please help here?
First, it is not so general-- I believe that BrE prefers the team are here. The word police is in a different classification-- a group of nouns with no singular form, like cattle, clothes and jeans.
Family can be singular or plural, depending on how the speaker is viewing it/them-- as a single group or as several related individuals. In the sentence you give, the speaker is obviously thinking of individual members, since he said 'all of her family'.
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The noun police is followed by a plural verb because it is a very big group of people. For one Individual, we talk of a Policeman or a policewoman. For the word Family, I need to check with other coleagues.
Chris, a Student
Kigali Institute of Education
Faculty of Arts and Languages
English and Literature With Education (Year III)
Partitive expressions like "all of her family" are called 'fused-head' constructions.
In this case, all means "all members", and all of her family then means "all members of her family".
"All members" can only be plural, so the verb too must be plural "were".
That's how the grammar works!
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