Brazil have Neymar. Argentina have Messi. Portugal have Ronaldo. Germany have a team!

I read this on Facebook, and someone said the singular "has" is supposed to be there instead of the plural "have" in all cases within the quoted phrase.

I got myself thinking, though, whether the plural wouldn't be correct, making each country's name a collective of the people that are part of it, or perhaps a collective reference to the national team of each country in this specific case.

I've seen uses such as

the police are conducting an investigation

making the noun "police" a collective of all people within a police force, but I'm not sure these kinds of usage are a recurring mistake by native speakers or something of that nature.

  • Also a possible duplicate of Pluralization of sports teams in British and American English. In North America, we say that Toronto is beating Detroit. In other places, they say that London are beating Madrid. But that is strictly limited to sports teams. If it were some other thing, like competing for the next Olympics, it would be London has beaten out Madrid.
    – tchrist
    Jul 9, 2014 at 4:13

2 Answers 2


This is one of the differences between British English and American English. In British English, collective nouns can often take plural verbs if the sense is that we are thinking about several individuals in the group: so 'the England team are in the dressing room'. Football teams are usually in the plural in BrE too, so what you quoted at the beginning is normal in BrE: 'Brazil have Neymar' means 'the Brazil team have Neymar'. In American English, the singular verb tends to be used in these contexts.

Sometimes, the distinction is discussed under the label 'notional agreement' or 'formal agreement'. In other words, do you focus on the 'notion' or the meaning behind the word, or do you focus on the word form of the word? BrE tends towards notional agreement and AmE tends towards formal agreement.

  • I’m quite glad you said tend, which is exactly right. There is a lot of fuzziness on the edges, where it really just depends on the speaker.
    – tchrist
    Jul 9, 2014 at 4:36

The police are plural. The police department is singular.

Germany is singular. Germans are plural.

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