How is or are your family.?difference between is and are to address family?

2 Answers 2


In American English, most collective nouns are treated as singular, with a singular verb (Oxford Dictionaries Online).

In British English, however, it is normal to treat collective nouns as plurals. In the case of the question 'How is your family?', it is not necessarily logical to think of 'family' as a singular object for which a singular response can be provided. For example, your sister Jenny and brother Timmy might be doing just fine, but perhaps your other brother, Mikey, just lost his job and home!

Using 'How are your family?' acknowledges that the family consists of multiple people with possibly varying levels of well-being.


"How is your family?" is the most correct grammatically speaking because family refers to a group of people, it refers to the group of people as a single unit, or collection. Nouns like this are called collective nouns, and in American English, collective nouns take singular verbs. (In British English, many collective nouns can also take plural verbs.)

Here are some other collective nouns, shown in example sentences, all with singular verbs:

~The visitor group was asked to wait outside the museum until 10 am. (group is a collective noun, was asked is a singular verb)

~I think our team is going to win a lot of games this season. (team is a collective noun, is going to win is a singular verb)

~This year the 5th grade class has four students from Asia. (class is a collective noun; has is a singular verb)

However, the collective noun police is an exception. It takes a plural verb, as in this example:

~The police are questioning the suspect.

I hope this helps.

p.s. If you're asking multiple people, then you're asking about multiple families, so "how are your families?" is the correct form of the question.

  • 1
    As you mention, there's a minor split across the pond about this. Leaving aside the British-English tag on the post, neither is more grammatically correct than the other. Both are fine. They just represent a difference in the speaker's focus.
    – lly
    Apr 12, 2017 at 6:56

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