I am writing an ad and would like to write: "Our team of economists are at your service and available by phone or email. They will be happy to respond...".

I know that grammatically speaking, 'team' is the subject of the sentence and, being singular, would dictate that 'it' is "at your service". BUT, it just feels better reading this and it evokes a picture of a bunch of economists doing what they do rather than a single unit".

Is what I'm doing OK? Should I be arrested by the grammar police?

  • There is one team but multiple economists, so you have the choice to treat it as singular if it is a team action, or plural if it is individual actions. If, as I suspect, sending an email or phone call will be answered by an individual economist, and an individual economist will provide a service, then I would treat it as a collection of individuals as you do. It is possible that if I phone, it will be put on speaker and the whole team will talk to me at once, in which case "Our team is at your service" would work better. Dec 29 '14 at 8:25
  • @ErikKowal: the question you refer to doesn't include neutral nouns like team in the options — it specifically talks about individual male or female people.
    – oerkelens
    Dec 29 '14 at 8:25
  • @oerkelens - Two seconds after posting my comment, I realized that I had linked to the wrong parallel question; three seconds later, you had already raced to point this out. Jeez!
    – Erik Kowal
    Dec 29 '14 at 8:27
  • 2
    Question is, are the grammar police singular or plural?
    – A E
    Dec 29 '14 at 8:58
  • Answered at Are collective nouns always plural, or are certain ones singular? (this example is not sufficiently different to warrant individual treatment). Dec 29 '14 at 9:17

It depends on whether you want British or American English. "The team are" is perfectly common and acceptable in British, whereas "the team is" is by far the more common construction in American.


Just leave out the team: "Our economists are at your service..." I think your intended market of possibly economist-hiring individuals is likely to be reasonably well-educated and put off by careless grammar. That's the only grammar police you need to be worried about.


Strictly speaking, your team is singular, indeed. I understand that you do not want the reader to give the impression that the whole team acts as one entity, though.

I can see two obvious ways to keep yourself happy and stay out of the hands of the grammar police. One is to make use of English' habit of reusing verb forms and make your sentence a bit longer:

Our team of economists who are at your service and available by phone or email will be happy to respond to your questions.

This way, who are...email is a subordinate clause referring only to economists, so the grammar police will allow a plural, and strictly speaking, will be happy is singular, and referring to your team. It is exactly the same as the plural form, though, so maybe you fooled the grammar police.

Another option is to keep your sentence as it is and tell the grammar police that you have used the singular they in your second sentence. They can be used in a sentence to replace the sometimes awkward he or she (or the even more awkward he/she). That you would usually refer to the team as it and not he or she, you can answer with "our team is human", or "if they is gender neutral, it should include the neutral gender". I'm pretty sure that if the grammar police insists on arresting you, you still stand a good chance in grammar court.

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