American English native speakers watching the World Cup have been very troubled regarding why British English announcers and writers treat country names as plural nouns. This issue has already been raised several times on this forum. I still don't get it. Please consider:

(1) "Germany is one country in the World Cup."
(2) "One country in the World Cup is Germany."
(3) "Germany are in the NATO alliance."

Are all of those sentences correct in British English?

"Germany are through to the final match on Sunday." seems to be correct British English. So, should I get the sensation that "Germany" represents:
(a) the members of the German team?
(b) the citizens of Germany?

There are great existing threads about this topic. So, I just hope to have my questions above directly answered.

  • Note that in your sentence 2 the singular verb "is" agrees in number with its subject "one country"; "One country in the World Cup are Germany" would be unacceptable in BrE. Would it be acceptable in AmE ? Surely it cannot be an example of the differences between Am and Br treatment of collective nouns. – High Performance Mark Jul 10 '14 at 0:34
  • I was just establishing a baseline with #1 and #2 which should have been more subtle. #3 was the real question. "If Germany are in the final game, are they also in NATO." – user312440 Jul 10 '14 at 12:15

"Germany are through to the final match on Sunday."

Your assumption A) is correct: 'are' means the Germany being referred to is the German team, ie:

The players on the German team are through to the World Cup Final

For this reason, your sentence (3) is incorrect - Germany the state (and therefore singular) is in NATO.

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  • Also, (1) and (2) sound ok because of the "one country". If you dropped that, it'd sound more natural in the singular ie "German is a country in the World Cup" but "Germany are in the World Cup". It's not the easiest thing to explain, and there are grey areas, times when either would sound ok. For example, personally I don't mind "Germany are in NATO". But again, like you also suggest, it'd have to be "The country of Germany is in NATO". – Rupe Jul 9 '14 at 14:27
  • In my opinion, the possibility of country names being plural nouns is one of the biggest differences between British and American English. I was completely unaware of this. It sounds so strange. thank you. – user312440 Jul 9 '14 at 15:24
  • @Rupe Like you, I find “Germany are in NATO” acceptable (though I’d probably use is myself); but “Germany participate in the NATO alliance” jars for me—at some point between just casually or passively being a NATO member and actively participating in a specific alliance, the border between what can be done by a nation-as-its-people and what requires a nation-as-a-political-entity is crossed. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 9 '14 at 17:37

"Germany are" rings like sandpaper to my ears. The subject "Germany" is a singular entity even though it encompasses plural entities such as "German team players" or "Germans." The latter represents a great number of citizens of Germany that are not relevant to the sentence such as "German fire fighters" or other citizens that may not be aware of the competition. So, the use of "are" is extremely loose and maybe acceptable only as a style choice.

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  • 1
    When you answer this 5-year-old question, you should reveal if you are from the U.K. The question is about British English. An answer with a reference supporting your opinions would be even better. I am in the U.S., and here certainly one would not say "Germany are". – GEdgar Aug 24 '19 at 12:57

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