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Tea room discussion[edit]

Note: the below discussion was moved from the Wiktionary:Tea room.

Hi, it's one of these singular nouns referring to a group of people (like team). Can I say the orchestra are playing? Or should I say the orchestra is playing?

  • Either is heard colloquially. Safest bet is to stick with singular form "is" though. Widsith 18:34, 18 May 2008 (UTC)
    • I think there's also a regional difference here; my U.S.-ian impression is that "is" is strongly preferred, but my understanding (which you seem to be backing up) is that in the U.K. either one is considered fairly O.K. (However, google:"the orchestra is" beats google:"the orchestra are" by a factor of nearly 7, and a higher proportion of its hits seem to have "the orchestra" as the actual subject.) —RuakhTALK 18:40, 18 May 2008 (UTC)
I thought it was a UK/US difference: US preferring "orchestra is", UK preferring "orchestra are" (but I defer to Ruakh's research). Seems like something our entry should convey, in any event. DCDuring TALK 18:43, 18 May 2008 (UTC)
Strongly disagree with DCDuring. While it is important information which should be on Wiktionary, it has nothing to do with orchestra specifically, but rather with English grammar in general, and can be applied to any collective noun. It should be in a grammatical appendix. -Atelaes λάλει ἐμοί 18:55, 18 May 2008 (UTC)
Which appendix is that? How would this user have found it?
Users don't have compartmentalized questions. They just have questions. I strongly object to excluding information for which we have evidence that users need and expect from Wiktionary. Many dictionaries offer more than Wiktionary about usage at the entry. Learners' dictionaries seem to require that users learn or look up codes. Other dictionaries have notes that are somewhat self-contained, but also have explanatory sections. I would not object to a set of appendices with explanatory notes and a set of links from the entries to which the notes apply or indeed any approach that made the information accessible. DCDuring TALK 20:30, 18 May 2008 (UTC)
What is needed is an Appendix:English collective nouns. Collective nouns are typically considered singular, but may take either a singular or plural verb, depending on context (Oxford Companion the the English Language). I also learned this in school (here in America), so it's not a US/UK distinction. The basic idea is: if the referent of the collective noun is performing an action as a junti, a singular verb is used. However, if the emphasis is on a variety of actions performed the the members of the group, then a plural verb is used. So: "Our orchestra is large" but "The orchestra play together well." Of course, that doesn't mean that in everyday usage this nice rule is actually followed regularly, just as the lie / lay distinction isn't heeded and neither is the me / I distinction. --EncycloPetey 02:26, 19 May 2008 (UTC)
I agree that something like that Appendix might be useful, especially when, as, and if users are willing to spend 15 minutes reading something. The other part of the problem is getting users who might need such an appendix to the right part of the right appendix. Our target users can be assumed to be busy, to have formulated a question in a particular way, and to not necessarily be aware of what we think they really need. If we do not give them the answer on the entry page, how do we get them in one click to the right place to resolve their issues? DCDuring TALK 02:49, 19 May 2008 (UTC)
That's simple. We could add a link in a Usage notes section. Or, we could add a collective noun option to either the {{en-noun}} template or the definition line as {{collective noun}} that links to the appendix. We could even do more than one of these. --EncycloPetey 04:38, 19 May 2008 (UTC)
I think that the link needs to be directly adjoining whatever we say about plurals, even if it does not apply to all senses. Once someone has clicked on the link we will have the opportunity to explain. Longmans's DCE has a code for just this class of nouns, "+sing./pl. v", that appears on the first line of the entry for "orchestra". The explanation of the note discusses the difference in UK and US. I don't think it is satisfactory to leave the regional difference to the appendix. Perhaps the link should say "US/UK difference in usage". We may need a "collective noun" tag for sense lines, too. I suppose it might be good for that to be linked to the same appendix for our longer entries where the sense line might not appear on the same screen as the inflection line. DCDuring TALK 12:27, 19 May 2008 (UTC)