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?

  • 1
    Related: english.stackexchange.com/questions/214977/…
    – Andrew Leach
    Dec 23, 2014 at 9:32
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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'. Dec 23, 2014 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. Dec 23, 2014 at 18:27
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    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, 2014 at 18:30
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    I see I was wrong. They are the same. Dec 24, 2014 at 7:00

2 Answers 2


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....



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. Dec 23, 2014 at 9:30
  • And there are presumably others that insist that a singular subject requires the use of a singular verb.
    – Martin
    Dec 23, 2014 at 14:27
  • Yes, but 'Correctly it's "snowboards" ' demands arbitrarily that theirs is the only tenable position. Dec 23, 2014 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? Dec 24, 2014 at 18:26

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