By Mehper C. Palavuzlar

2012-02-21 12:16:43 8 Comments

I want to use 'audience' in the following sentence. In what form should I use it? Is it a singular or plural noun?

How the audience demotivate players in the NBA.

How the audience demotivates players in the NBA.


@Mustafa 2012-02-21 16:38:55

Audience is a collective noun. If you think and/or express it as a group it is singular; If you think and/or express it as individuals acting within the whole it is plural.

@tchrist 2012-02-21 16:55:22

Perhaps in Olde Englande, but not Stateside.

@Jay 2012-02-21 15:49:15

Ooh, I learned something today: American and British English apparently differ on this.

From Grammar Girl (which I understand is an even more authoritative source than pop song lyrics):

Americans tend to treat collective nouns as single units, so it’s more common to use the singular verb unless you’re definitely talking about individuals (3). So in America you would be more likely to hear “The faculty is meeting today” than “The faculty are meeting today.” In British usage, however, it’s the opposite; it’s more common to use the plural verb (4). In fact, some sentences that are perfectly correct in Britain would be considered incorrect in America (3). Take “Cambridge are winning the boat race.” Although I spent my elementary-school years in London, I have been fully Americanized, so this sentence doesn’t sound right to me. As an American, I would say, “Cambridge is winning.”


When I was in school I was taught that collective nouns always take a singular.

The ever-popular Google Ngram shows "audience is" far more common than "audience are".

Of course a collective noun can be pluralized: You can say, "Of the three audiences we have had at our concerts, one audience booed us off the stage and two audiences threw rocks." Just like "committee" is a collective noun, but it's quite reasonable to say, "Two new committees were formed yesterday."

@Mitch 2012-02-21 17:23:04

In google ngrams, you can choose a British corpus or an American corpus to see the difference.

@Kris 2012-02-22 06:54:37

+1 for 'even more authoritative source than pop song lyrics'

@Bob 2012-08-02 20:10:04

Great answer. How ironic that the Brits don't speak proper english! :-p

@Barrie England 2012-02-21 12:33:16

Singular if you want to emphasise its homogeneity, plural if you want to emphasise its component parts.

@Mehper C. Palavuzlar 2012-02-21 12:58:46

Could you please give an example?

@Barrie England 2012-02-21 13:13:28

@MehperC.Palavuzlar: 1. The audience was united in its appreciation of the concert. 2. The audience were divided in their appreciation of the concert.

@Mitch 2012-02-21 13:18:31

'Audience' as a plural sounds really off. I don't think it is accepted AmE usage.

@slim 2012-02-21 13:37:58

"The audience are clapping their hands" sounds right to me. "The audience is huge" seems to have a different meaning from "The audience are huge".

@Raku 2012-02-21 13:47:01

If the speaker wanted to emphasize the members of the set, he could use "The people in the audience were..." or maybe more specifically "The male members of the audience were...". But maybe I'm in scientific mode where I'm wrongfully arguing against common practice, be it logical or not...

@Barrie England 2012-02-21 13:55:10

@Mitch: Yes, BrEng seems to be more comfortable than AmEng with words having plural agreement, when they look singular.

@tchrist 2012-02-21 16:53:24

@Mitch: You’re exactly right. Any American proofreader would reflexively swap a plural verb to match the singular ‘noun of multitude’, because it is ungrammatical in standard American English to write ‘An audience *are expected to applaud’ instead of ‘An audience is expected to applaud’, and changing the article from indefinite to definite does not alter the required concordance. This style sheet for authors makes this matter perfectly clear.

@Tim 2016-07-18 09:07:33

I'd tend to change it to 'the audience applauded'. There's always an alternative way in which to phrase something.Glad that AmEng adheres to what makes good sense, sad that BrEng, which I taught, appears to eschew it.

@Pacerier 2017-03-25 22:54:54

@BarrieEngland, So how does this match with the answer at ? Who is right?

@Gaurang Tandon 2017-10-06 14:18:43

IMHO, this answer is not at all helpful to a non-native speaker without the example in the second comment. It should really be amended to include that example. Sacrificing complete understanding of meaning for clever brevity of words is not so smart imho.

@user2683 2012-02-21 12:28:42

Both are correct. Audience may be used with a singular or plural verb.

@tchrist 2012-02-21 16:54:27

Not in America it cannot. A plural verb are going to sound wrong here to the American ear, and will be quickly corrected by any proofreader who gets their hands on it.

@Raku 2012-02-21 12:23:46

It's a singular noun that represents a set of people, so I would use

How the audience demotivates players


How the people in the audience demotivate players

@Pacerier 2017-03-25 22:55:35

This example is irrelevant because demotivate is not matched with audience but matched with people.

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