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I was wondering what number the verb 'to snowboard' should take in the following sentence:

A group of men, led by Olympic athlete John Rider, snowboard(s) down the gently sloping hills.

Because 'a group snowboards', but 'they snowboard'. The second one sounds better to me.

But can anyone explain me the difference, and which one is right or wrong?

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    The question you're probably intending is 'Does group take a singular or plural verb?' And the answer is 'Many would say both, depending on whether or not the individual members are being referenced, though some argue that the fact that the noun group has a singular form dictates that singular agreement is required'. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 23 '14 at 9:39
  • @AndrewLeach I think you confused the OP's a [collective noun] [verb] with a [set] of [set members]. I see no relationship to your linked question. – Jim Reynolds Dec 23 '14 at 18:27
  • Whereas I see no difference in how "a group of men" and "a row of pictures" should be treated. However, I only noted a relationship: I didn't close this question as a duplicate. – Andrew Leach Dec 23 '14 at 18:30
  • I see I was wrong. They are the same. – Jim Reynolds Dec 24 '14 at 7:00
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If we are thinking about the group as a single entity, then we use snowboards. This would be the most common way to conceptualize your example sentence.

However, if we are thinking of members of the group individually, then British English users often use a singular verb with a collective noun. This is most apparent when BrEng users talk about companies as the individuals comprising them: BP have begun new drilling operations in Nigeria.

The crowd run off in every direction.

So, conceiveably: The group snowboard down the hill. (Conceptualized as, Each man at his own speed and in his own style). I don't know how often this is done with group, but it cannot fairly be called incorrect.

American English users more often make another type of change in order to preserve agreement in number between collective noun as singular, and verb--e.g., The members of the crowd run....

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_American_and_British_English#Formal_and_notional_agreement

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Correctly it's "snowboards" - the subject is a group of men, hence singular. However, you will commonly see groups, teams, governments etc. used with a plural verb, which tends to emphasise the individual nature of those comprising the group.

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    'Correctly' it's either. There are many authorities (eg CGEL 17.2.5a) who say that the use of logical concord is quite acceptable. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 23 '14 at 9:30
  • And there are presumably others that insist that a singular subject requires the use of a singular verb. – Martin Dec 23 '14 at 14:27
  • Yes, but 'Correctly it's "snowboards" ' demands arbitrarily that theirs is the only tenable position. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 23 '14 at 15:37
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    If you insist on using the singular, you can get weird constructions. None of "the crowd was straining to see over its heads", "the crowd was straining to see over their heads" or "the crowd was straining to see over each others' heads" sounds right. Doesn't "the crowd were straining to see over each others' heads" sound much better? – Peter Shor Dec 24 '14 at 18:26

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