Which pronoun should be used to refer to, say, an orchestra? Does it go on concert tours, or do they?

Intuitively I’d go for “they”, but intuition is known to fail…

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The orchestra goes on tour. The members of the orchestra go with it.

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  • Why bother with it at the end there? – tchrist Aug 2 '12 at 19:19
  • Also, how can the orchestra be something apart from its members? – tchrist Aug 2 '12 at 19:20
  • I might have said, "The members of the orchestra go." but that's not specific. "The members of the orchestra go as well" would be fine, but what's wrong with "..with it"? Where did the members of the orchestra go? "With it. (the orchestra)" The fact is that the orchestra is very much apart from its members. The orchestra is generally permanent and distinct from its members. For example, the orchestra may be contractually bound to appear or paid for promotion or royalty reasons, while its members may not be so bound or so paid. The orchestra is an "it" and the members are "them". – Bob Aug 2 '12 at 19:55
  • Perhaps because “to go with” is something of a phrasal-verb shibboleth? – tchrist Aug 2 '12 at 20:25
  • An entity is a single object made up of multiple units. Movement of a physical entity requires the concurrent movement of some or all of its members. The distinction between the entity and its units explains the inclusion of "with it" in this answer. – Pantalones Aug 3 '12 at 4:35

Strictly speaking the correct pronoun is it but as it is often the case that we are referring to members of the orchestra, the comfortable pronoun can be they. It is, therefore, a matter of context and preference.

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For collective nouns, the agreement of the verb with the noun dictates that we use singular.

Concretely, whenever we refer to a group, we are referring to one single entity as a whole, and thus we use singular counts for the group.

E.g. The herd of sheep is running amok. This follows from the fact that we are referring to the herd as a whole and as one entity rather than to all the individual sheep.

Thus, it will be the right usage.

P.S. When it come to the difference between american and british english, I have learned from Wren and Martin, which predominantly teaches in the British style and they used singulars there for collective nouns.

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