Team Is or Team Are – Is “Team” Singular or Plural?

Marcus Froland

Picture this: you’re cheering for your favorite sports team, decked out in their colors, and you shout, “The team is winning!” But wait a minute. Your friend next to you argues it should be “The team are winning!” Now, both of you are puzzled. This isn’t just about who’s right or wrong; it’s about understanding the nuts and bolts of English grammar. And let’s face it, English can be a tricky beast sometimes.

In today’s world where everyone has an opinion on everything, the debate over whether ‘team’ should be treated as singular or plural is more alive than ever. You might think this is just splitting hairs, but how we refer to groups affects not only our writing but also how we perceive unity and individuality within those groups. So before you place your bets on Team Is or Team Are, let’s clear up some confusion. By the end of this discussion, you’ll see why this topic is more intriguing than meets the eye.

In English, the word “team” can be both singular and plural. It depends on how you view the group of people. If you think of the team as one unit doing something together, use singular verbs (team is, team has). For example, “The team is winning.” However, if you focus on the individuals within the group each doing their own thing, use plural verbs (team are, team have). Like in, “The team are eating at different restaurants tonight.” This rule isn’t just for “team” but applies to other collective nouns such as family, committee, or staff. So, whether a team is singular or plural comes down to your perspective on the action being described.

The Basics of Collective Nouns in American English

In American English, collective nouns are typically paired with singular verbs to indicate the collective entity as a single unit. Though there can be regional variations and exceptions, this pattern of using a singular verb with singular collective nouns such as ‘team’ tends to be the norm in the United States. The context plays a vital role in determining the verb form. For instance, ‘the team is’ indicates a collective action, whereas ‘the team are’ would be used when the members act separately.

Understanding Singular and Plural Forms

It is essential to ensure the collective nouns and verb forms align with your intended message. The cognitive dissonance sometimes experienced by readers when encountering a singular collective noun with a plural verb suggests revising the sentence to clarify the subject’s plurality. Consider the following examples to understand the concept better:

The team is struggling to complete the project on time. (collective action)
Each member of the team is putting in extra hours to meet the deadline. (individual actions of the members)

Navigating Collective Nouns

According to Nigel Caplan, plural verbs are rarely used in American and Canadian English unless part of a compound subject. This illustrates the need for careful navigation when writing about collective entities. To ensure clarity and coherence in your writing, consider revising the sentence to explicitly mention the members of the collective. For instance:

Instead of:
The team are working on different tasks to achieve the goal.

Revise to:
The team members are working on different tasks to achieve the goal.

When using compound subjects, it’s appropriate to use plural verb forms, as demonstrated in the following example:

The manager and her team are preparing for the upcoming conference. (compound subject)

The recommendations discussed above can help guide you through the complexities of collective nouns and ensure your writing remains clear, coherent, and engaging for readers.

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Variations in Collective Noun Usage Across English Varieties

English language variations are diverse, and this extends to the usage of collective nouns like “team.” While American English predominantly opts for singular verbs with collective nouns, other English-speaking countries like the United Kingdom, Ireland, and New Zealand often prefer plural verbs. Let us understand these variations and how regional preferences play a role in shaping linguistic traditions.

American and Canadian English: Generally, singular verbs are associated with collective nouns such as “team”, with the exception of compound subjects. When compound subjects are present, like in phrases such as “he and his team are,” plural verbs are used to reflect the plurality of the subject.

Example: The team is playing well tonight (American English).

British, Irish, and New Zealand English: In these varieties of English, it is more common to use plural verbs with collective nouns, such as “team.”

Example: The team are playing well tonight (British English).

This table provides a clear comparison of collective noun usage across different varieties of English:

English Variety Collective Noun Example (Singular Verb) Collective Noun Example (Plural Verb)
American English The team is ready for the match. He and his team are prepared.
British English The team is ready for the match (less common). The team are ready for the match.
Irish & New Zealand English The team is ready for the match (less common). The team are ready for the match.

These differences highlight the importance of understanding your audience, as well as regional preferences when using collective nouns in your writing. Taking note of English varieties’ idiosyncrasies will help ensure that your content is clear, coherent, and engaging for readers.

Grammatical Number with Sports Teams and Other Groups

Sports teams pose a fascinating deviation in the rules governing grammatical numbers of collective nouns. In the UK and related English dialects, teams, despite having a singular form, often take a plural verb. This distinction is in contrast to American and Canadian English, where sports teams typically already use plural forms, bypassing the issue altogether. Nonetheless, when a singular reference is made to the city or region the sports team is from, a singular verb is more common. This observation is based on Nigel Caplan’s research and explicit examples from different nationalities.

Sports Teams: A Special Case in American and British English

There are quite a few unique examples when it comes to using the word team with sports in American and British English:

  • In British English, teams with singular forms like “Manchester United” frequently take plural verbs: “Manchester United are playing well this season.”
  • In American English, teams might already contain plural forms like “Boston Red Sox,” making the verb choice less tricky: “The Boston Red Sox are enjoying a good run.”
  • When referring to the city or region the sports team is from in American English, a singular verb applies: “New England is proud of its sports teams.”
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Understanding these peculiarities can help ensure the correct usage of verbs with sports teams in both American and British English contexts.

Corporate and Government Entities in Media Usage

Caplan and a third source highlight that, beyond sports, collective nouns—such as government, company, and audience—are typically singular in American English media usage. Conversely, British English often uses plural verbs with these entities. This distinction reflects a more comprehensive journalistic practice contributing to the unique media styles found in American and British publications.


American English: “The company unveiled its new product line.”

British English: “The government have announced new regulations.”

These differences in usage emphasize the importance of context when addressing collective entities in media writing. Recognizing these distinctive linguistic approaches can help writers tailor their content to specific audiences and maintain consistency in verb usage across different varieties of English.

American English vs. British English: A Deeper Dive

While grammar may seem relatively straightforward, the treatment of collective nouns like “team” differs significantly between American and British English. In this section, we explore these differences, looking at how collective nouns are generally singular in American English and plural in British English.

As noted in our third source, a variety of examples from different publications show that American English favors singular verbs and pronouns with collective nouns, while British English publications often employ plural verb forms. Let’s take a detailed look at some examples of this divergence:

American English British English
The team is ready for the competition. The team are ready for the competition.
Apple Inc. has announced its latest product. Apple Inc. have announced their latest product.
The jury has reached a verdict. The jury have reached a verdict.

These differences extend beyond mere grammar rules; they also reflect the underlying conception of groups and entities within the diverse cultural contexts of the English-speaking world. In American English, a collective noun is often viewed as a single, unified entity, whereas in British English, the focus is on acknowledging the individual members of the group and their potential for independent action.

As a writer, it’s essential to take these distinctions into account when creating content for an international audience. By being mindful of these variations, you can tailor your writing to better resonate with readers from different backgrounds and linguistic preferences.

Remember to adapt your writing to the intended audience, taking into account the unique nuances of American and British English. Context is key, and a thoughtful approach to grammar and usage can make all the difference in effectively getting your message across.

The Contextual Nuance of ‘Team’

Understanding the nuances of using the word ‘team’ in different contexts is essential to create clear and accurate sentences in your writing. One such context is the use of ‘team’ in conjunction with other subjects, which influences the choice of singular or plural verb forms.

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‘Team’ in Conjunction with Other Subjects

When the word ‘team’ is used in a compound subject, the collective noun can take a plural verb to reflect the plurality of the subject. For instance, the phrase “he and his team are” requires a plural verb, as it constitutes a compound subject. This grammatical pattern is typical in both American and Canadian English.

Example: He and his team are working on the project diligently.

Let’s take a look at a few other examples to better grasp this nuance:

  1. While the team is excited about the new project, the manager and his team are focused on the current deadlines.
  2. Sarah and her team have devised an innovative marketing campaign.
  3. The engineers and the design team are collaborating on the new product launch.

By carefully considering the context and noting the surrounding subjects, you can ensure proper verb agreement and maintain clarity in your writing.

Avoiding Ambiguity in Your Writing

When using collective nouns such as ‘team’, it’s essential to be cautious and ensure clarity in your writing. Sometimes, using a singular or plural verb form with ‘team’ can create ambiguity, leading to confusion for the reader. To improve the clarity of your content, you might consider revising sentences that use ‘team’ and explicitly mentioning members of the collective, for instance, “team members.”

Ensuring Clarity Through Revision

Revision is an important step in producing clear and effective content. This process allows you to address potential misunderstandings and make sure your intended meaning is conveyed. By carefully reviewing your writing, you can identify areas where the usage of collective nouns, such as ‘team,’ may create confusion and revise them accordingly. This attention to detail will enhance the readability of your content and help you achieve your communication goals.

Consistency in Verb and Pronoun Agreement

Maintaining consistency in verb and pronoun agreement is crucial for coherent writing. When working with collective nouns like ‘team,’ ensure that you use either singular or plural verbs and pronouns consistently, depending on the intended notion of the collective noun. Not only will this eliminate confusion for the reader, but it will also make your content more persuasive and engaging. As you refine your writing, focus on aligning your grammar with the context and meaning you wish to convey, ultimately contributing to a stronger and more effective piece.

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