Part 21 of the Legal Methods Lecture Series By Terry Seligmann
What’s a collective noun? Words like “team,” “crowd,” “committee” and more particularly in law, “court” and “jury.”
What pronoun goes with a collective noun? If the action is collective, use “it,” not “they.” Examples: The committee made its views clear in its report. The court issued its decision yesterday. Even though a court is made up of individual judges, it only acts as a group. The judges asked questions that revealed their individual views. The court made its leanings obvious during argument.
Corporations A corporation or company is a single entity, not a collective noun, even if it has a plural proper name – “Lehman Brothers,” “General Motors.” So it takes a singular pronoun: General Motors found that it could not produce cars that sell. The company moved its offices to Dubuque. and verb: The corporation was implicated in the fraud. The corporate officers were implicated in the fraud.
What verb goes with a collective noun? If the action is collective, treat the subject as singular and use a singular verb: Example: The jury deliberates on a verdict. Example: The Committee is issuing its report on Wednesday. The Court always acts collectively Example: The Court hears oral argument today.
Want more? The source for this material, and a place to find more on pronoun references and singular and plural verbs: Bryan Garner, The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style §§ 10.10, 10.23-10.25.