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Honestly, I know the answer is most likely going to be some form of "it depends", so here's the context I'm using the phrase noun in:

the livestock are acting up and now I need to...

the livestock is acting up and now I need to...

I know there are instances when "livestock" feels more singular than plural, but in my use case I'm leaning plural. I'm just not sure.

Any help and other examples are appreciated

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ODO defines livestock as a mass noun, and none of its many examples has either is or are following the word:

livestock noun (mass noun) Farm animals regarded as an asset. ‘markets for the trading of livestock’ - ODO

Interestingly, though, M-W provides this pair of examples:

a market where livestock are bought and sold
a market where livestock is bought and sold

M-W's learner's dictionary provides a little more information, noting both plural and noncount usage of the word livestock, with the above examples repeated.

So if you're treating the livestock as a (plural) set of animals, use livestock are, and if you're treating the animals as a collective (massed) group, use livestock is.

  • I guess it comes down to understanding when I'm using it as a plural and when as a collective (seems obvious, but I guess I just need more examples and patterns to develop this judgment). Would you recommend I replace livestock with an animal set noun (kettle of hawks, pod of dolphins, murder of crows) just to test the usage? What about substitutes for the collective form? – MSD Sep 26 '17 at 22:56
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    Here's a test you can try: replace livestock with group, then with individuals. If group fits better, use livestock as a mass noun; if individuals fits better, use it as a plural noun. – Lawrence Sep 26 '17 at 23:06

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