Here are two recent questions from readers:
Sheri E. asked: “The auditors in my company always write clauses like this: ‘The committee had their meeting on. . .’ Shouldn’t it be ‘The committee had its meeting on. . .’”?
I thought she was right, but I usually confirm my instant judgment with The Gregg Reference Manual, 11th edition. Sections 1019a and 1019b state, respectively:
“If the group is acting as a unit, use the singular form of the verb: ‘The Board of Directors meets Friday.’”
“If the members of the group are acting separately, use a plural verb: ‘A group of researchers are coming from all over the world for the symposium.’”
So Sheri was right, since the committee was acting as a unit to hold the meeting.
LisaMarie D. wrote: “Could you please let me know the correct way to word this:
‘Over 50% of the population now uses
Over 50% of the population now use’”?
Gregg addresses this question in Section 1024:
“When subjects expressing periods of time, amounts of money, or quantities represent a total amount, use singular verbs.”
In my mind, “over 50% of the population” represents a total amount, so the verb should be “uses”: “Over 50% of the population now uses. . .”
(Incidentally, both of the questions above involve collective nouns―defined in Understanding English Grammar as “a noun that refers to a collection of individuals” and extensively explained with principles and examples.)