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Is it grammatically correct to say that "two groups of people stared at each other" since, by itself, a group can't do anything? It's the people within the groups that do the staring, not the groups themselves, but I don't know how else I would go about wording this. If you have any suggestions for a substitute sentence that means basically the same thing, feel free to state it.

Also, if this question is in the wrong category/under the wrong tags, please let me know! I'm new to this site so I don't quite know how everything works yet.

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    Sound OK to me. If a group of people are staring, it means ( or at least most of the people are staring). What's not clear is whether members of each group stared at their fellow group members, or whether they stared at members of the _ other_group. – Brian Hitchcock Sep 29 '15 at 6:57
  • Why don't you use "People in both groups stared at one another? Some might be staring at people in the same group, but mostly they are staring at people in the opposite group. – user140086 Sep 29 '15 at 7:10
  • @Rathony Or, better still, you could say the two groups stared at one another By leaving out the word people you make it clear that it was group versus group and not people within each group staring at their neighbours. – WS2 Sep 29 '15 at 7:30
  • @WS2 Your suggestion seems better!!! – user140086 Sep 29 '15 at 7:32
  • A related question: Can you say, "Our eyes bore into each other?" Should it be "Our eyes bore into each other's"? – MoniqueH Sep 29 '15 at 7:43
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There is grammatically nothing wrong with the construction, however you do need to be careful. Without proper context, the construction can be ambiguous.

  • Yes, actions which can only be undertaken by individuals, can be imputed to groups. One might challenge this on a philosophical, or logical level but there is a long tradition of it being used linguistically. Wales woke up with a hangover on Monday morning, 36 hours after their team had beaten England, in the Rugby World Cup – WS2 Sep 29 '15 at 7:40
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The best way to say it, in my opinion, is "Each of two groups of people stared at the other," if you mean to say, "all of the people of one group stared at the other group, and the other group reciprocated." Or you could wish to say, "Each group of people stared at the members of its own group," in which case, that's what you would say. However, this is rather tedious language, and in conversation, you'd probably say it a little more relaxed and then explain the specifics if they weren't initially, properly understood. My answers are probably more fitting for a professional publication.

  • This answer could be improved by making it definitively answer the question. As it stands, it lacks supporting references that would make it definitive. More of a problem, though, is that it is at most a partial answer. The primary question is about the correctness of the grammar in the example, and your answer doesn't address that. – MetaEd Mar 23 '16 at 20:21

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