Collective Nouns Like 'Team' -- Making Them Agree

 One of my sisters recently got into a debate with co-workers over a grammar issue and e-mailed me to ask about it. She wrote:

 “Which sentence is correct?

 “‘The WBL Team share how they use your comments, customer feedback, and product reviews to ensure the best customer experience. 


 “‘The WBL Team shares how they use your comments, customer feedback, and product reviews to ensure the best customer experience.’”

  The first one says “the team share” and the second one says “the team shares.” Team is something called a collective noun. Collective nouns can be either singular or plural, depending on how they’re intended.  In “The couple is waiting at the airport,” the collective noun “couple” is functioning as a unit, so its verb is conjugated as singular: is. But in “The couple are taking separate vacations,” the individuals within the collective are acting independently. So this “couple” really emphasizes plural individuals, and that’s why it takes a plural noun.

 So it’s up to the writer to decide whether the “team” is functioning as a single unit or whether to emphasize the members' individuality. In this sentence, the team sure seems like a single entity to me. So treating it as singular by saying “the team shares” seems the better choice.

 For good measure, I surveyed to of the editors I work with. They agreed: “The team shares” usually seems better than “the team share.”

 But this sentence adds another layer of complication: “… how THEY use your comments …” That “they” treats “team” as a plural noun, which contradicts the singular nature of "the team shares." In these situations, consistency is important. If one part of the sentence treats something as a plural, simplicity dictates that the other parts of the sentence do the same.

 So to be consistent, we might write “The team share how they use your comments.” This is called pronoun-antecedent agreement, in which the pronoun "they" matches its antecedent "team."

Often, the best thing to do in a situation like this is rewrite the sentence. “Members of the team share how they use …” But when that’s not an option, as it wasn’t for my sister, consistency is paramount.

 She opted for “The team share how they.” If I wasn't at liberty to rewrite the sentence,  that's probably what I would have done, too.

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4 Responses to “Collective Nouns Like 'Team' -- Making Them Agree”

  1. I have a question to that topic, too.
    Is the following sentence right or not?
    After it had lost the match, the English team was disappointed.
    Or is it right to say:
    After they had lost the match, the English team was disappointed.

  2. There's no right answer. If you want to emphasize that the team is made up of people, you can say "they" If you want to emphasize it as a single unit, you can use "it."

    Notice how, in your second example, you're shifting from a plural "they" to a singular implied by the verb "was"? (That is, if you were being consistent, you'd say, "After they lost the match the English team WERE disappointed.") Well, these aren't things that editors fuss too much over. They tend to do it however it sounds natural. And the way you had written it sounds more natural to me than my alternative with "were."

    If, when writing about teams, you try too hard to apply rules and logic, the result can come off as decidedly unprofessional. And, in my experience, professional editors opt instead for natural-sounding constructions.

  3. If I say like this
    'This team work usually work on Fridays.'
    is it right?
    How about this one,
    'These team work usually work on Fridays.'?
    is it right?
    Explain with grammatical ground with these sentences, please.

  4. DDD: Sorry it took so long to answer your question.

    You asked which of the following two sentences is right: "This team work usually work on Fridays" and "These team work usually work on Fridays."

    There are a couple problems with both forms. The most important issue is "team work." I believe you wanted "team," meaning a group of people, and not "team work," meaning their shared efforts.

    As for "this" vs. "these," the plural "these" would never go before "team." In this sense, "team" is always treated as singular. Occasionally you might see "team" paired with a plural verb, but that's so rare I can't even think of an example right now. In general, think of "team" as singular and modify it with the singular "this" instead of the plural "these."