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ESL forum > Ask for help > I need your help...    

I need your help...



mourisca
Portugal

I need your help...
 
Dear colleagues,
 
which one is correct?
 
 
- When does the family watch TV? The family watches TV after dinner.
 
- When do the family watch TV? The family watch TV after dinner.
 
 
 
Thank you for your help. 

3 Feb 2016      



loboclaud
Portugal

Hi mourisca,
In my opinion the first sentence is the correct one because I see the word "family" as being third person singular but I may be wrong, so let ´s hope one of our English speaking colleagues can give more detailed information. 

3 Feb 2016     



Upen Atem
Italy

Hi Mourisca!
 
I ´ve always understood this to be a British / American English difference.  For example, in the US we always use ´family ´ as a third person singular subject,( my family is from CT) but I remember seeing it as plural in Ireland ( my family are from CT)
So my advice is to find out which ´style ´ of English you are using and stick with it! ;)
 

3 Feb 2016     



spinney
United Kingdom

It depends if you mean as a single unit or a group of individual people. Both are correct in other words. The same applies to words like; team, government, group etc.

3 Feb 2016     



cunliffe
United Kingdom

Spinney is right. I tend to go for the plural agreement in these cases, but treating them as singular is fine.

3 Feb 2016     



almaz
United Kingdom

As Jess says, the choice of a singular or plural verb with a collective noun such as family points to one of the more common differences between British and American English. And as Dale pointed out, we tend to use both singular and plural in British English depending on whether we want to emphasise the group as a single unit (formal agreement with a singular count noun) or as a collection of individuals (notional agreement), while American English clearly favours singular verbs with most group nouns.
 
Mind you, although Americans usually go for formal agreement, I´m aware that they may also employ notional agreement with words like ´family´ if the focus is unambiguously on the individuals who make up the family group (e.g. my family are all crazy).
 
 
Alex 
 

3 Feb 2016     



yanogator
United States

I agree with Alex, except that I ´ll say that the tendency toward formal agreement is even stronger than he thinks in the US. Because of that, we are more likely to substitute a count word when we want to use the plural, such as "My relatives are all crazy" instead of Alex ´s example. That is only a tendency, not a rule.
 
Bruce 

3 Feb 2016     



almaz
United Kingdom

Thanks for the heads up, Bruce. I wasn´t too sure just how uncommon notional agreement with collective nouns is in American English.

 Alex

3 Feb 2016     



mourisca
Portugal

 
@ Loboclaud, Upen Atem, spinney, cunliffe, Alex and Bruce 
 
 Thank you so much for your answers!!!
 
 
 

3 Feb 2016     



eddieb1702
United Kingdom

I have always understod the family to be a single unit and that is what they taught me in a British school in London.

3 Feb 2016     



Ndir
Palestine

It depending on the context, because the word "family" is a collective noun. Here an example:

1.The family needs to go out in vacation. ( so when we treat collective nouns as one unite, it is the singular form)

2. The family are not here. ( here it is in the plural form, so we refer to the individuals in this family, the whole family members are not here)

4 Feb 2016