Readers write

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.

Second question

LisaMarie D. wrote: “Could you please let me know the correct way to word this:

‘Over 50% of the population now uses

OR

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.)

One Response to Readers write

  1. I just wondered about – over 50% – I was always taught that it should be more than 50% Would both ways be right? I was told that over is not the proper word to use because of the meaning of the word over??

    Can anyone clarify this.

    Thank you,
    Mary

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