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Is “group” singular or plural?

Which is correct?

The first batch of special prizes has been distributed.

The first batch of special prizes have been distributed.

Google says "have" but I find it hard to believe.

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This indicates the catch to the common response here, "Did you Google it before asking?" There are many examples of bad grammar on the Internet. Just because I found 10,000 examples of someone writing, "Me and him is going ..." doesn't mean that that is proper grammar. –  Jay Sep 13 '12 at 14:39
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marked as duplicate by Andrew Leach, jwpat7, MετάEd, tchrist, kiamlaluno Sep 15 '12 at 21:32

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4 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I think Google is wrong too, but I am curious how you asked.

There is only one batch being distributed, so it should be 'has'.

In the same way, "The box of chocolates has been delivered", because there is only one box.

Examples:

The first batch of suncream has been distributed to the Albino population...

The first batch of Omani relief supplies has been distributed to Libyan refugees in Tunisia...

The first batch of 5,000 has been distributed to schools.

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"the first batch of * have" - 22M results –  domino Sep 13 '12 at 10:51
    
"the first batch of * has" - 16M results –  domino Sep 13 '12 at 10:51
    
@domino Google results alone cannot provide a categorical answer. Context is very important. –  Kris Sep 13 '12 at 10:55
    
@domino: Just sifting through the first few pages, how many of those results come from blogs and message boards? (When using Google for this kind of research, remember that an example usage is only as good as its source. Generally speaking, newspapers and books get proofread and edited; blogs and message boards do not.) –  J.R. Sep 13 '12 at 10:58
    
The answer (which you should have deduced from the Google results) is that both "the first batch of * has been" and "the first batch of * have been" are perfectly good English. Ask yourself whether the verb goes better with "batch" or "*". –  Peter Shor Sep 13 '12 at 11:35
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In these situations, my approach is always substitution to a single word... I like widget because of its ubiquitousness:

So substituting widget for first batch (of special prizes) gives:

  • The singular widget has been distributed
  • The plural widgets have been distributed
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So, if the original sentence had said, "The first batches of prizes have been distributed," that's when you'd use widgets, instead of widget? –  J.R. Sep 13 '12 at 10:59
    
Yes @J.R. I would –  Andrew Sep 13 '12 at 11:33
    
Would you say "the first box of chocolates have been distributed"? –  Roaring Fish Sep 13 '12 at 11:44
    
No - the "widget" is the first box (singular) that has been distributed... of chocolates is adjective –  Andrew Sep 13 '12 at 11:51
    
Then why isn't the "widget" the first batch (singular) that has been distributed, modified by "of prizes"? –  Roaring Fish Sep 13 '12 at 13:40
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Strictly speaking, both are correct.

The first batch of special prizes has been distributed.

Refers to the batch as a unit -- this is appropriate where the batch is given away in a single lot. (Which of course, is obviously not the case here).
Consider this:

We have dispatched the first batch of medicines today. You will receive it shortly.

On the other hand,

The first batch of special prizes have been distributed.

Refers to the individual prizes constituting the batch. It is most likely that prizes are distributed individually to different persons. Therefore, this construction is appropriate for the example case.

Have is correct.

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+1: This is correct, except I think has works for the example case as well ... you can still think of the first batch as a unit, even if it's going to different people. –  Peter Shor Sep 13 '12 at 13:11
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The word batch is singular, therefore 'has' is technically correct. If it were the phrase 'the first batches of prizes have been have been distributed,' 'have' would be correct.

This is ultimately a British / American English thing. British English usual states that even if the noun itself is plural, but the noun describes a group of things (group, family, team), then it is treated as a plural noun.

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I am British, and I have never heard what you say is British English. I was taught that one family/team/group is singular. –  Roaring Fish Sep 13 '12 at 10:09
    
Hi RoaringFish. I suppose what @galsere is referring to is how collective nouns CAN have a singular or plural verb in British English, while in American English, the same words normally take a singular verb. –  Cool Elf Sep 13 '12 at 10:24
    
"The first batch of prizes have been distributed" is acceptable in American English, unlike "Congress have convened". –  Peter Shor Sep 13 '12 at 11:29
    
No, that is not taught in British English. If that is what your grammar books are telling you, you need to get some more credible ones. My British school, in Britain, taught me that collectives are always singular, except when it is an adjective being used as a collective ('the poor') which is always plural, or when it is people, police, or cattle which are also always plural. You get a choice with family and team, but even there it is poor style to go plural. –  Roaring Fish Sep 13 '12 at 11:30
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