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.
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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:
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.