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Re: 3rd person singular neutral X 3rd person plural ?

On Thursday 15 May 2008 09:54:11 martin f krafft wrote:
> also sprach Andre Felipe Machado <andremachado@techforce.com.br> 
[2008.05.15.0211 +0100]:
> > A- third person singular neutral (it, the Debian Project)
> > B- third person plural (they, the Debian Project)
> One project, two projects. It, they.

It is not as simple as that.  I realise the original questioner won't like the 
answer but the answer is "it depends".  Both of these are natural to me 
(native British English):

Debian is 10 years old. [Subject is singular]

Debian have elected a new leader. [Subject is plural] 

In fact, I would have no trouble saying "The Debian project is 10 years old 
and they have elected a new leader".  

In UK English (but not in US), "corporate" bodies are plural, at least when 
viewed as a multi-headed entity.  A Brit would say: "My bank have 
over-charged me" (an American would say "my bank has over-charged me").

On the other hand, a Brit would probably say "HSBC is a FTSE 100 company", 
although some might use the plural even in that case (and it is still "a 
company"!).  And just to confuse you, I would say "My bank is HSBC" and "HSBC 
are my bank"!

Sorry about that, but that is the strangeness of the English language.  The 
difference is subtle, of course.  I think it depends on whether you are 
thinking of the corporate body in the abstract (singular) or as an actor 
consisting of a collection of people (plural).  If in doubt, use the plural 
in British English and the singular in American English.

I deal with this issue quite frequently as I am a Brit working in marketing 
for an American company.  My colleagues and I each hate the way the other 
writes press releases! I write "<my company> are the world leader in ..." and 
my colleagues question my basic language skills as they cross out "are" and 
write "is"!  If the release is aimed at a Commonwealth audience I get my own 
back as I change it back again!!


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