The class is/are all working on a project together.

I am curious to know whether I can use both is and are in this sentence - with a small difference in meaning.

  • 1
    In BrE we routinely treat collective nouns like class, family company, workforce as singular or plural according to the context and intended nuance. So to me, the presence of the word all inherently forces the plural interpretation requiring are. Because AmE takes a stricter line (such words are almost always treated as syntactically singular), I suppose at least some Americans will be happy with My family is all here, but it sure sounds daft to me. Jan 15, 2016 at 17:25
  • @BenjaminHarman Thanks. I wasn´t sure whether I can use both "is" and "are" as there is the word "together". So even in my example both are possible.
    – TH92
    Jan 15, 2016 at 17:30
  • @FumbleFingers I agree with you entirely about the UK. I took a very small straw poll (6 individuals) just now and 100% went for the plural "are".
    – BillJ
    Jan 15, 2016 at 19:02
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    @BillJ: I'm itching to downvote Benjamin's answer, because it seems almost unbelievable that any significant number of speakers (even Americans) would ignore the screamingly obvious semantic plurality of all. But it would only confuse the issue if we start voting along "national dialectal preference" lines for questions like this (besides which, we Brits would always be outvoted on every usage split). So I'll just have to abstain and watch to see how others (Americans) vote. I'm heartened by Peter's NGrams though. Jan 15, 2016 at 19:15
  • @FumbleFingers : "Even Americans," just as if nothing worse could be said of a person. Lol. Jan 15, 2016 at 23:51

1 Answer 1


In the US, one wouldn't say, "The class are all working on a project together." One would say, "The class is all working on a project together."

However, in the UK, it's said both ways:

5. Group nouns

Some nouns, like army, refer to groups of people, animals or things, and we can use them either as singular nouns or as plural nouns.

Examples: army, audience, committee, company, crew, enemy, family, flock, gang, government, group, herd, media, public, regiment, staff, team.

We can use these group nouns either as singular nouns or as plural nouns:

  • My family is very dear to me.
  • I have a large family. They are very dear to me. (= The members of my family…)

  • The government is very unpopular.

  • The government are always changing their minds.

Sometimes we think of the group as a single thing:

  • The audience always enjoys the show.
  • The group consists of two men and three women.

Sometimes we think of the group as several individuals:

  • The audience clapped their hands.
  • The largest group are the boys.

The names of many organisations and teams are also group nouns, but they are usually plural in spoken English:

  • Barcelona are winning 2-0.
  • The United Oil Company are putting prices up by 12%.

In regard to UK usage, I've heard the assertion that one would count class as singular, thus use "is," if the class is working in concert (together), but one would count the class as plural, thus use "are," if the class is all working but working severally. This assertion, however, doesn't seem to hold up where the rubber meets the road. You quite commonly hear people say things like, "the government are saying," and, "the military are invading," using a plural conjugation in situations where a unified front is clearly intended.

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    In the U.S., one can say "The class are all working on a project together." The all makes the plural verb acceptable (and in fact slightly preferred). See Ngram with the all. Jan 15, 2016 at 17:47
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    And another Ngram without the all. Jan 15, 2016 at 17:49
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    Really? It sounds infinitely strange to me. Let's try another example: "My family is all headed home"; or, "My family are all headed hope." Nope. I just don't hear it with "are." Google has the "Ngram" tool that allows us to track certain word combinations, but it wouldn't track by location. If it's your experience, I don't refute it. It's just not my experience, which experience is relatively broad. Jan 15, 2016 at 17:49
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    That Ngram is just for American English. It may vary regionally, but for me, as soon as you put in the all, it feels to me like you need a plural verb. Jan 15, 2016 at 17:50
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    @TH92 In the UK, the plural override is particularly likely with predicates that necessarily apply to individuals rather than collective wholes, and it is virtually required if a quantifying adjunct such as all is included in the clause. So we would mostly hear The class are all working on a project together .
    – BillJ
    Jan 15, 2016 at 18:55

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