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I want to use 'audience' in the following sentence. In what form should I use it? Is it a singular or plural noun?

How the audience demotivate players in the NBA.

How the audience demotivates players in the NBA.

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1  
audience is a collective noun with a plural: audiences. –  Kris Feb 21 '12 at 12:30
    
I think your title is rather misleading. I had to delete my answer. –  Kris Feb 22 '12 at 6:51
    
Do you have a suggestion for a new title? –  Mehper C. Palavuzlar Feb 22 '12 at 8:01

5 Answers 5

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Singular if you want to emphasise its homogeneity, plural if you want to emphasise its component parts.

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7  
@MehperC.Palavuzlar: 1. The audience was united in its appreciation of the concert. 2. The audience were divided in their appreciation of the concert. –  Barrie England Feb 21 '12 at 13:13
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'Audience' as a plural sounds really off. I don't think it is accepted AmE usage. –  Mitch Feb 21 '12 at 13:18
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"The audience are clapping their hands" sounds right to me. "The audience is huge" seems to have a different meaning from "The audience are huge". –  slim Feb 21 '12 at 13:37
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If the speaker wanted to emphasize the members of the set, he could use "The people in the audience were..." or maybe more specifically "The male members of the audience were...". But maybe I'm in scientific mode where I'm wrongfully arguing against common practice, be it logical or not... –  Raku Feb 21 '12 at 13:47
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@Mitch: Yes, BrEng seems to be more comfortable than AmEng with words having plural agreement, when they look singular. –  Barrie England Feb 21 '12 at 13:55

Ooh, I learned something today: American and British English apparently differ on this.

From Grammar Girl (which I understand is an even more authoritative source than pop song lyrics):

Americans tend to treat collective nouns as single units, so it’s more common to use the singular verb unless you’re definitely talking about individuals (3). So in America you would be more likely to hear “The faculty is meeting today” than “The faculty are meeting today.” In British usage, however, it’s the opposite; it’s more common to use the plural verb (4). In fact, some sentences that are perfectly correct in Britain would be considered incorrect in America (3). Take “Cambridge are winning the boat race.” Although I spent my elementary-school years in London, I have been fully Americanized, so this sentence doesn’t sound right to me. As an American, I would say, “Cambridge is winning.”

[http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/collective-nouns.aspx]

When I was in school I was taught that collective nouns always take a singular.

The ever-popular Google Ngram shows "audience is" far more common than "audience are". http://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=audience+is%2Caudience+are&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=0&smoothing=3

Of course a collective noun can be pluralized: You can say, "Of the three audiences we have had at our concerts, one audience booed us off the stage and two audiences threw rocks." Just like "committee" is a collective noun, but it's quite reasonable to say, "Two new committees were formed yesterday."

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1  
In google ngrams, you can choose a British corpus or an American corpus to see the difference. –  Mitch Feb 21 '12 at 17:23
    
+1 for 'even more authoritative source than pop song lyrics' –  Kris Feb 22 '12 at 6:54
    
Great answer. How ironic that the Brits don't speak proper english! :-p –  Bob Aug 2 '12 at 20:10

It's a singular noun that represents a set of people, so I would use

How the audience demotivates players

but

How the people in the audience demotivate players

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Both are correct. Audience may be used with a singular or plural verb.

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3  
Not in America it cannot. A plural verb are going to sound wrong here to the American ear, and will be quickly corrected by any proofreader who gets their hands on it. –  tchrist Feb 21 '12 at 16:54

Audience is a collective noun. If you think and/or express it as a group it is singular; If you think and/or express it as individuals acting within the whole it is plural.

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3  
Perhaps in Olde Englande, but not Stateside. –  tchrist Feb 21 '12 at 16:55

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