I downloaded the old ielts test and its keys, one of the questions asked you to describe a bar chart, and there were 3 different pieces of data given on the chart:

  • Cars owners
  • Internet users
  • Apartment renters

The graph shows average data for 3 cities in 2005. The figures are for millions of people.

In its key for this question, there was a line which I thought it was weird.

The line stated:

"Internet users was the highest statistic."

Is it supposed to use the word "were" instead?

Or "Internet users" was some kind of singular agreement for this case?

  • 2
    I would not use plural here (and I am British, and so favour the plural for group entities like governments and teams). The reason, I believe, is that "Internet users" is here a kind of name: it is not saying anything about internet users (people who use the internet) but about "internet users" (a dataset labelled "internet users").
    – Colin Fine
    Oct 17, 2018 at 11:27

1 Answer 1


One way of describing such language use is to wrap a word or phrase:

  • {Internet users} is...
  • {Internet user}s are...

So while the data is describing the number of individual Internet users etc., the statistics compare three singular groups that happen to be labelled 'car owners', 'Internet users' and 'Apartment renters'.

A classic example of such verb use involves "the family is" and "the family are", depending on whether we consider the family as a single unit or a group of individuals.

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