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This question already has an answer here:

For example, should I say:

The target population was selected ...

OR

The target population were selected ...

(please ignore passive voice issue)

marked as duplicate by Edwin Ashworth, A E, Misti, andy256, Drew Jan 16 '15 at 2:21

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    I think it comes down to the rest of the sentence. In other words, if you hand-selected the population one-by-one, especially based on different criteria, then I would say were. If the selection is just a scooping up of many people at once, I would use was. "The population were selected due to each person's unique viewpoints on the topic." versus "The population was selected because of the cultural beliefs they share." – EFrog Jan 15 '15 at 9:32
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    To my American ear "the population were selected" sounds distinctly British. – Brian Hitchcock Jan 15 '15 at 9:49
  • @EFrog That summarises the 'logical concord' stance (less favoured in the US than the UK) very well, though "The population was selected on the basis of common cultural beliefs." avoids the awkward 'was selected ... they share'. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 15 '15 at 9:54
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In this example, 'target population' is functioning as the noun to the verb 'was'. What form of a noun - target population is a group, in my opinion [therefore a Mass or Collective noun]. When referred to as a group, a Collective noun will typically take a singular verb.

My Opinion- The target population was selected after the meeting with the Marketing team.

More on Subject-Verb agreement of Collective nouns: Some subjects imply more than one person, but are themselves singular. These are known as collective nouns. Examples include group, team, committee, class, band, and family. Because these words are singular, they require a singular verb.

As the subject of a sentence, a mass noun usually takes a singular verb {the litigation is varied}. But in a collective sense, it may take either a singular or a plural verb form {the ruling majority is unlikely to share power} {the majority are nonmembers}. A singular verb emphasizes the group; a plural verb emphasizes the individual members.



Edits: Almost all of the text. It is to accommodate the comments of @EFrog and @EdwinAshworth. A conclusive answer would depend on the certainty of the number of Collective noun. An ideal and unambiguous sentence should unequivocally substantiate that the noun be treated either as a group or as individuals of a group. Having said that, my answer/opinion stands on the ground of the sentence that I recommend in the answer. It is considered as Standard Written English under the ambit of cited sources. (I'll also consider applying for a job with Paralegal services hereafter;). Thanks for all your reviews/comments.


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  • The statements 'X is functioning as a group [ – ] that is as a Collective noun' and 'Collective nouns take singular verbs when they imply a group.' are inconsistent. The first uses apposition (ie group implies [strict mathematical sense] collective noun and vice versa) whereas the second implies collective nouns do not always 'imply a group'. Also, your answer (last paragraph) assumes 'grammatical concord' with collective nouns to be the only correct choice; it isn't. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 15 '15 at 10:07
  • Thanks for the downvote! But let me make an attempt at a plausible explanation. Subject of the sentence is 'target population', which is essentially a group. A noun that stands for a group is a Collective noun. Like other collective nouns, a group (when members are not considered individually) will function as a singular number. Ergo, associated verb should take singular number. Refer to the Purdue Uni. link for more data on the topic. – chatterji Jan 15 '15 at 10:27
  • "The first uses apposition (ie group implies [strict mathematical sense] collective noun and vice versa) " - Vice versa is inaccurate. Standard examples of collective noun may not represent a group when individual members are considered. Sample these: The jury decides the verdict. The jury were divided in their opinion. – chatterji Jan 15 '15 at 10:31
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    Why are you 'thanking' me for the downvote? It was your answer I downvoted, not you. // Your Purdue link shows that the authors there only recommend singular agreement for collective nouns ('Some subjects imply more than one person, but are themselves singular. These are known as collective nouns. Examples include group, team, committee, class, band, and family. Because these words are singular, they require a singular verb.') [bolding mine]. You post two different (but valid) answers without mentioning that they express contrasting opinions. How is that not confusing? – Edwin Ashworth Jan 15 '15 at 10:33
  • Downvote from a user and Acceptance of the asker. Of course, you can't see much. Not that this is going in a direction of a constructive argument. If you insist on the meaning of this construction, observe how the noun (target population) is functioning with respect to the sentence. It is in the meaning. – chatterji Jan 15 '15 at 10:45

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