Skip to main content

Family, staff, team – followed by ‘is’ or ‘are’?

A common confusion is whether to use ‘is’ or ‘are’ for groups of people.

In British English, it depends on how you view the group.

Do you see the group of people as one unit? Then use singular:

The family is going to support you.
The hospital staff is hard-working.
The clinical team has had a successful year.

Or do you see the group as a collection of individual people? Then use plural:

The family are going to support you.
The hospital staff are hard-working.
The clinical team have had a successful year.

Other group nouns like this are:

  • government, party, ministry, public, union
  • bank, committee, company, firm
  • class, school
  • band, choir, orchestra

In American English, singular verbs seem to be more common.

Everywhere else, you can choose between ‘is’ or ‘are’ based on your perception of the group.

For other common confusions, see here, here and here.

And email me your tricky questions.

Liked this? Sign up for email alerts and get a free taste of how we can work together to get your professional English unstuck.

© Christina Wielgolawski