“The audience is waiting patiently for the performance” or “the audience are waiting patiently for the performance”? If you said the first one, you’d be correct. But why exactly?
Grammar can be tricky, even for the best of us. The question of whether or not the sentence goes “the audience is” or “the audience are” is not a silly question at all! In fact, it’s pretty common and easy to get confused. Mostly simply, the answer is “the audience is”, however, it also depends on what comes before that. So, how do you use each one correctly?
We use “the audience is” when we treat the audience as a group. We use “the audience are” when we are talking about the plural of individuals.
The audience is from Texas.
Most of the audience are from Texas.
The rest of this article will explain how and when to use “is” and “are” in this context.
Why Does it Matter?
First of all, why does it matter whether or not you use “is” or “are” following a collective noun such as “audience”? Does it really make that much of a difference?
Actually, it does! “Is” is a singular verb while “are” is a plural verb, and therefore “is” is used to describe a singular noun while “are” is used to describe a plural noun.
When to Use “Is”
“Audience” is a collective noun, which is used to describe a group of individuals. “The audience” when pertaining to one group of people is singular, and therefore if you were describing an action of the audience you would use “is”.
For example: The audience is bored.
In this case, “the audience” is singular, as it is describing one collective group. Therefore, you would use “is”.
You wouldn’t say “the audience are bored” because “are” is plural and in this case, the collective noun, audience, is singular because it refers to one group.
When to Use “Are”
“Audience”, again, is a collective noun. As it is used to describe a group of individuals, you could use it as a singular noun to describe the group or a plural noun to describe the individuals that are in the group. When talking about the individuals that are in the group, you would use “are”.
For example: Most of the people in the audience are bored.
In this case, you are talking about the people in the audience, not the audience. Unless the audience is made up of one single person (in which case you would say the one and only person in the audience is), the description of the audience has now become plural. Therefore, you would use “are.”
You wouldn’t say “most of the people in the audience is bored”. This in itself should sound wrong, but it is also wrong because the subject of the sentence is plural, not singular. It no longer refers to the audience as one group, but as a group of individuals.
Whether or not “the audience is” or “the audience are” is correct depends on the sentence and the way you want to describe the audience. The audience can be singular or plural, and this will determine whether or not to use “is” or “are”.
Since the audience is a collective noun and describes a group of people, you can describe the group as a single entity, or as the individuals that make up the group.
If you are using the audience as a single group, such as “the audience is watching the movie”, you would use “is”. If you are describing the individuals in the audience, it becomes plural, such as “the people in the audience are watching the movie”, you would use “are”.
If you’re having a little trouble with grammar, don’t sweat it! It can get the best of us, especially when it comes to collective nouns. But now you know when to use “is” and “are” in regard to a collective noun, such as “the audience”!
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