When joining multiple nouns that refer to someone, how does one properly address the lot? I have a feeling it's the first.

  • It's know. James and his family are a plural. – David M Oct 2 at 15:00

You need to conjugate based on all the subjects of the sentence, you can't pick one and ignore the rest. Simply replace all the nouns with a single pronoun, and that will make it clear which conjugation you should use.

James and his family know - > They know

He and I are going -> We are going

  • Downvoter, care to explain the problem? – Nuclear Wang Oct 2 at 15:25
  • I'm not the downvoter, but I think this might give the wrong answer sometimes. His family knows - > They know. (Maybe you should use "it"? But that sounds very insulting.) – Peter Shor Oct 10 at 11:56
  • @PeterShor Interesting counterexample. I think here you have to use "it", otherwise you're changing the plural nature of the subject. Collective nouns typically take verbs conjugated for singular nouns, unless the members are acting distinctly. It'll depend on if you're referring to the collective as a whole unit, or as independent actors that happen to share some characteristic. Consider the difference between "James' family plays baseball" and "James' family [members] play different sports". See learnersdictionary.com/qa/Collective-Nouns-and-Verb-Agreement – Nuclear Wang Oct 10 at 15:40
  • American speakers don't have to use "it"; we can use either. For example, Google finds more results for "family mourns their" than for "family mourns its" (and looking at them, for most of them the subject is indeed "family"). British speakers are likely to use a plural verb and say "the family mourn their". And there are very few hits for "family mourn its", which I suspect are mainly typos. – Peter Shor Oct 10 at 15:58

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