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When referring to Congress do I refer to it as a single body or a collective? For example, is it

Congress is stupid.

or

Congress are stupid.

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5  
This differs between U.K. English and U.S. English. In England, Parliament are stupid. In the U.S., Congress is stupid. Related question here. –  Peter Shor Jul 28 '11 at 21:56
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Related: Is a company always plural, or are small companies singular? The most voted answer gives the answer for collective nouns. –  kiamlaluno Jul 28 '11 at 21:58
    
Mmmm this is more interesting than I thought. So are both right dependent on context? –  Cirtus Jul 28 '11 at 22:09
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Also, in the US, isn't it supposed to be 'The Congress is stupid'? –  Mitch Jul 28 '11 at 22:57
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Slightly to my surprise, the same pattern appears for "House of Commons": the BNC has 15 'is' to 0 'are' in the relevant senses. For "government", the BNC has 1501 "government is" to 445 "government are". Both of these clearly include plenty of examples which are not relevant, but a quick scan suggests to me that the singular verb is still several times more common than the plural in that corpus. –  Colin Fine Jul 29 '11 at 14:02
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1 Answer

up vote 6 down vote accepted

In American English, Congress is a collective noun. So, you have the Congress, the Senate, the United States of America. For your particular sentence, you would write:

Congress is __.

Depending on where the OP is from, there are different uses in British English (thank you @FumbleFingers)

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Cheers. I will accept your answer when it lets me (10 mins or so). –  Cirtus Jul 28 '11 at 21:52
    
There is something of a US/UK divide here (we Brits usually speak of what Microsoft are doing, where Americans usually say is). But even allowing for that, usage isn't as clear-cut as you imply. Consider this usage of ...Congress are to go in a body..., which certainly sounds fine to my (British) ear. –  FumbleFingers Jul 28 '11 at 21:56
    
@Fumble: I added your comments. I didn't realize that, thank you. –  simchona Jul 28 '11 at 22:03
    
Ah. I am from Britain. For some reason saying Congress are feels right. While congress is seems more common. –  Cirtus Jul 28 '11 at 22:07
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@Cirtus: With this particular one I think I chop and change according to context. Despite my example superficially suggesting singular ("in a body"), it actually calls to mind that there are many Congressmen involved, which I think is why I'm fine with "are" there. Note - GoogleBooks finds 4600 written occurences of "Congress has voted", against 716 for "Congress have voted", so it's a strong but certainly not overwhelming tendency. –  FumbleFingers Jul 28 '11 at 22:22
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