The United States is/are

Lynne Murphy lynnem at COGS.SUSX.AC.UK
Wed Aug 23 13:07:15 UTC 2000

> "Aaron E. Drews" <aaron at LING.ED.AC.UK> writes:
> >>>>>
> As for Britain (well, mostly England) referring to the U.S. in the
> plural, it has nothing to do with being a Federal vs. a Confederal
> system.  Countries and large collective nouns (teams, committees,
> government agencies, etc) are treated as plural, although this is
> losing its consistency in practice, I think.
> <<<<<
> Are France plural? (What's a Frant, anyway?)
> "France are part of Europe"? Hardly, I expect, and that's not a political
> joke.
> "France have won the World Cup"? Maybe. Or does that refer to the team?
> "France have pulled out of the negotiations"? That's political; is it
> well-formed?
> In what contexts *does* this treatment apply?

If France is standing for a group of people, then it's likely to be treated
as a plural in BrE--just as any singular collective noun referring to
people is likely to be treated as a plural (e.g.,  "the jury have retired
to the conference room").  So, you could have France are when it refers to
a team, as you've given above.

France are suffering from the injury of their top player.

However, you're much more likely to hear "The French are..." in a lot of
these contexts, so it's not easy to find examples.  (Tried to check on, but ran into too many e.g.s like "the majority of ATMs in
France are made in Scotland"--fun fact of the day).

BTW, Fowler's (3rd ed.) says that United States and the Vatican are
_always_ treated as singulars.


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