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Why should I use the words "entire group of boys" instead of "entire boys". I know the first one is correct but can't explain why other than it sounds right. I need to explain why as part of a paper.

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    Maybe because "entire boys" sounds like the boys' whole bodies instead of parts of boys? "Entire" defines the group, not the boys, IMO. – Kristina Lopez Oct 6 '14 at 15:52
  • Another option is "the entirety of the boys." But to me that's kind of awkward and sounds like a PE teacher from the 1970s. And it's not a phrase I would use, without boys/boy's/boys' being a modifier, such as in "the entirety of the boys team." But then you could just say "the entire boys team." But "the entirety of the boys group" seems to have a different stress from "the entire group of boys." – pazzo Oct 6 '14 at 16:21
  • It's just that the construction the entire X, and synonymous alternatives such as the complete X, the whole X, syntactically and logically require a singular X. That's to say it can't always directly replace all of the X, within which X can be either singular or plural. – FumbleFingers Oct 6 '14 at 16:40
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Entire means whole, all parts of.

Now, the entire group (of boys) means the whole group (as opposed to a part of the group), whereas entire boys means whole boys (as opposed to parts of boys — arms, legs, heads).

The entire car -> the whole car, tires, seats, engine, etc
The entire group of cars -> the whole group, every single car in the group

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