French Grammar: Subject verb agreement — Verb agreement with collective noun subjects
From Polyglot Club WIKI
Definitions[edit | edit source]
Subject—Verb Agreement[edit | edit source]
The subject-verb agreement in French is the way to choose the correct ending for verbs in terms of grammatical persons, gender and number, depending on their subject.
Agreement with collective nouns[edit | edit source]
A collective noun (nom collectif) is a singular noun that represents a group of things or people.
- Some French examples include une série (a series), une poignée (a handful or fistful), un tas (a pile), une foule (a crowd), and, of course, un groupe (a group).
Although collective nouns can stand alone in a sentence, they are often followed by a complement (a group of something). The tricky part about using collective nouns is determining whether the verb should agree with the collective noun (and be singular) or with its complement (and be plural).
Generally, a collective noun in the singular requires the verb to be in the singular, as opposed to English where speakers use either a verbal form in the singular or the plural:
Collective Nouns in singular and verb in singular[edit | edit source]
- Le gouvernement a décidé de modifier la loi
The government has/have decided to change the law
- Le comité a proposé une nouvelle réunion d'information
The committee has/have suggested a new information meeting
- La famille passe les vacances de février en Normandie
The family is/are spending the February holidays in Normandy
"Tout le monde" (everyone)[edit | edit source]
NB: "Tout le monde" always agrees with a singular verb:
- Tout le monde vient passer la soirée chez moi
Everybody is coming to my place for the evening
Collective noun followed by a plural complement[edit | edit source]
This may change, however, when the collective noun is followed by a plural complement. The verb may then be in the singular or the plural (although some speakers still have a preference for the singular):
- L'équipe de footballeurs italiens a (or ont) dû quitter Paris hier matin
The Italian football team had to leave Paris yesterday morning
- La foule de supporters ont (or a) été rapidement calmé(e)(s)
The crowd of supporters were rapidly calmed downNote that in English there is a preference for a plural verb in these cases.