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This url links to an Australian article (sourced from Reuters) about a football team. The article has the following title:

Ukraine speed to test new-look Germany defence

I understand that the word "speed" is a verb here. However, why not "speeds"? Since "Ukraine" is a singular noun, I expect it to be "Ukraine speeds".

UPD. Thanks to the detailed comments and answers below, it turns out the question is not about collective nouns, but rather about "speed" being a noun and not a verb.

UPD2. As noted in comments replying to my UPD above: Not necessarily! If the rest of the article were in American English, yes, it would clearly be a noun. But the rest of the article is clearly written in British English or similar and "Ukraine" as an identifier for the team is a plural noun in BrEng. (We know it's BrEng because it says "Ukraine... are certain to test...") So it really could be either, the only way to be sure would be to ask the author their intent.

Now I'd really like to find out from the author!

  • i think it's a great question, without wanting so. From the comments and some answers, plenty of people thought it was a verb. For me it was clear it was a noun, that's why I edited the title to "why is there no S on speed" -->because it's a noun and not a verb. It's definitely not a duplicate, it's not about plural, even though it may have started as so. It taught something even to natives, hence it's actually become a great question. – P. O. Jun 14 '16 at 14:10
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    I am reopening because this question is clearly not a dupe. I am also immediately closing again because it is clearly off-topic and already got way more attention than it deserves. It is not a "great question" by any stretch of imagination. – RegDwigнt Jun 14 '16 at 14:12
  • The paramount word here is if. If speed is a verb then it is a duplicate. The OP (who is not a native speaker) asked why the verb was not singular since the noun, Ukraine, is. Two answers, both upvoted highly by the community, disagree that speed is a verb. That is the whole point of reopening this question. If the OP had known that speed in headlinese English, could also be a noun, there would have been no question to begin with. It has become an interesting question about language because of the submitted answers. – Mari-Lou A Jun 14 '16 at 15:03
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    @Meglio: "Thanks to the detailed comments and answers below, it turns out the question is not about collective nouns, but rather about "speed" being a noun and not a verb." Not necessarily! If the rest of the article were in American English, yes, it would clearly be a noun. But the rest of the article is clearly written in British English or similar and "Ukraine" as an identifier for the team is a plural noun in BrEng. (We know it's BrEng because it says "Ukraine... are certain to test...") So it really could be either, the only way to be sure would be to ask the author their intent. – T.J. Crowder Jun 15 '16 at 10:04
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    I voted to reopen this question because it is an interesting construct sourced from a major news source. The word speed certainly appears to be a verb at first glance, and the wordplay is of interest in its own right. It's true that there is little research in the question, but this is almost to be expected when the OP didn't consider reading speed as a noun. As such, in this case, I accept as sufficient the note that it looks like an incorrect (numerical) agreement coupled with the authority of the source. – Lawrence Jun 15 '16 at 12:06
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I think in this context, "speed" is in fact a noun;

(Given that headlines need to use as few words as possible)

i.e. [[Ukraine] speed] = [the speed of [the Ukraine football team]]

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    That interpretation seems to be borne out by this sentence from the linked article: "Ukraine ... are certain to test the Germans' new-look defence with quick wingers Andriy Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka capable of inflicting severe damage." – TrevorD Jun 13 '16 at 11:17
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    You should elaborate on why this is 'headlinese' because it's the most salient fact to this question. – Spencer Jun 13 '16 at 11:31
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    The key omission being the "'s" after "Ukraine", something that would only happen in a headline. – Spencer Jun 13 '16 at 11:38
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    Maybe you could rephrase op sentence in your answer, i.e. it should read that it's "Ukraine speed" which is going to be testing "Germany defence" and not Ukraine that is testing Germany – P. O. Jun 13 '16 at 12:47
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    +1 At first I thought this answer was wrong, but actually on taking a closer look you're 100% right. It's "[Ukraine speed] vs [Germany defence]", two composite noun phrases, and does not describe Ukraine speeding to test the German defence (though if they were, in UK English it would be correct to omit the s from the verb, for example, "Ukraine speed to arrive at game on time", for reasons explained in gschenk's answer). Downvote removed! – user568458 Jun 13 '16 at 22:02
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There's no 's' because it is not a verb, it is a noun.

The sentence means

Germany's new look defence will be tested by the speed of the Ukrainian team

Not

The Ukraine team is in a hurry to test Germany's new look defence

This is evidenced in the article itself where it says

Ukraine, while outsiders, are certain to test the Germans' new-look defence with quick wingers Andriy Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka

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Ukraine means in this context 'team Ukraine'.

In the same text it says

Ukraine, while outsiders, are certain [...]

So, here you see that the word "Ukraine" refers to the team with a plural word, as the verb "are" follows instead of "is".

There appear to be different conventions with regard to the collective noun team, which seem to differ between American and British (in this case Australian) English.

If plural verbs are not used regularly for the word team, which sports journalists appear to do, the writer might indicate that all members of the team are doing something that is the same but is done individually.

Good examples can be found with committees: "The committee has" vs. "the committee have"

  • I try to treat collective nouns as plural to sidestep pronoun gender issues in English: he, she, it acts on object; they, they, they act on object. For those who confuse gender with sex, this is non-sexist. For our future robot overlords, it is also non-animist! :-) – torek Jun 13 '16 at 7:02
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    While the piece is published here by an Australian news outlet, it's from a wire service (Reuters), so it's most likely the product of a British er, um, pen. – phoog Jun 13 '16 at 11:24

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