Grammar question: the police is/are ...

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Grammar question: the police is/are ...

Postby Giles on Sun Aug 25, 2019 3:16 am

Hi guys,

This is one for the native American English speakers – of which there are plenty here. :)

Background:
One grammatical difference between American English and British English is that AE treats collective nouns as singular while BE often treats the same word as plural.
For instance:
AE The team is happy with the progress
BE The team are happy with the progress

AE The band is playing great tonight
BE The band are playing great tonight

So far, so good. My question is about the word “police”. In British English we would normally say things like “The police are investigating the crime” or “The police are on the way” or “The police have released a sketch of the suspect”. As far as I understand, “the police” is something of an exception to the aforementioned rule because – I believe – AE too treats this collection noun as a plural and the three examples just quoted are also normal AE usage. Hence a native AE speaker wouldn’t normally say “The police is on the way” or “The police has released a sketch”.
Or am I wrong, and “The police is investigating the crime” etc. is actually good or even required grammar in AE ??

Some feedback from AE speakers would be great.

Caveat: Obvously if one is referring to the entire institution of the police then the singular form is appropriate, e.g. “The police is the executive arm of the government.” Or if one talks about “the police force”, which is obviously singular. My question here is solely about “the police” in normal speech as in the previous examples.
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Re: Grammar question: the police is/are ...

Postby Peacedog on Sun Aug 25, 2019 6:14 am

I do not know if it is textbook AE, but I have only ever heard the phrase "the police are on the way." I think the assumption is that you always get more than one policeman.

Likewise, I have heard someone say, "a policeman is around the corner."

Regarding the team, and band, examples you used, in AE we view the team/band as a single entity. Hence using is instead of are. Policemen are generally viewed as a group of individuals versus a team. Which is weird, but the way it is approached.

Hope this helps.
Last edited by Peacedog on Sun Aug 25, 2019 6:17 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Grammar question: the police is/are ...

Postby Giles on Sun Aug 25, 2019 6:43 am

Thanks Peacedog, that is helpful. My question really is just about phrases like "the police are already here", "the police are puzzled by the report" etc. Other police-related nouns such as "the policeman, police department, police force is..." etc. can be taken as givens.

This question relates to my work as a translator, where as a Brit I currently need to translate into AE (more or less). Any other opinions?
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Re: Grammar question: the police is/are ...

Postby Steve James on Sun Aug 25, 2019 8:06 am

My question really is just about phrases like "the police are already here", "the police are puzzled by the report" etc.


The answer depends on what the writer means, but collective nouns can be headaches.
See https://www.learnenglish.de/grammar/nouncollective.html

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"The class" disagree with each other. [The class disagree among themselves].
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Re: Grammar question: the police is/are ...

Postby Giles on Sun Aug 25, 2019 9:31 am

Indeed, collective nouns always a tricky one. Once again, my question is specifically about the "the police", possibly as an exception to the rule also in American English.
- The background here is a friendly disagreement with a client (who has very good English but is not a native speaker).
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Re: Grammar question: the police is/are ...

Postby Steve James on Sun Aug 25, 2019 9:55 am

Well, I'd say that there's no "correct." But, put it like this "The Police are a band" or "The Police is a band." Now, "The Police are a band that played rock music." "The Police is a band than plays rock music." Both are "correct." There is not a difference between British and American English in that sense.

It all depends on the context in which the noun is used and whether the writer is using it as a singular or plural. The police are many things to many people.
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Re: Grammar question: the police is/are ...

Postby oragami_itto on Sun Aug 25, 2019 10:05 am

Bastards.

The police is bastards.
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Re: Grammar question: the police is/are ...

Postby marvin8 on Sun Aug 25, 2019 11:09 am

Giles wrote:Indeed, collective nouns always a tricky one. Once again, my question is specifically about the "the police", possibly as an exception to the rule also in American English.
- The background here is a friendly disagreement with a client (who has very good English but is not a native speaker).

Yes. Police is an exception, a unique collective noun and a plural uncountable noun.

Excerpt from "Noun correction:"
http://icosa.hkbu.edu.hk/ wrote:Police is a specially case. Police is plural rather than singular and so have only the plural form.


Excerpt from "Plural uncountable nouns:"
englishgrammar.org on MAY 4, 2013 wrote:Some uncountable nouns are plural. They have no singular forms with the same meaning, and cannot be used with numbers. Common examples are: groceries, arms, remains, goods, customs, clothes, thanks, regards, police etc.

• The police are searching for a white man in his twenties.
• Have you bought the groceries? (NOT Have you bought the grocery?)
• Many thanks for your help.

Other plural uncountable nouns include trousers, jeans, pyjamas, pants, scissors, spectacles etc.


Steve James wrote:Well, I'd say that there's no "correct." But, put it like this "The Police are a band" or "The Police is a band." Now, "The Police are a band that played rock music." "The Police is a band than plays rock music." Both are "correct." There is not a difference between British and American English in that sense.

The band name "The Police" is not a plural uncountable noun, as is the noun police (not the band).

Correct: “The police are on the way.”
Incorrect: “The police is on the way.”

Steve James wrote:It all depends on the context in which the noun is used and whether the writer is using it as a singular or plural. The police are many things to many people.

Police is a "plural uncountable noun."
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Re: Grammar question: the police is/are ...

Postby Steve James on Sun Aug 25, 2019 11:35 am

Police is a "plural uncountable noun."


Where I agree is that no one would say "the police "is" coming" is grammatically correct because "police" is considered plural. I said it depends on what the writer means and the reader understands. It is possible to say "the police is" was my point.
Last edited by Steve James on Sun Aug 25, 2019 11:42 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Grammar question: the police is/are ...

Postby marvin8 on Sun Aug 25, 2019 11:53 am

Steve James wrote:
Police is a "plural uncountable noun."


Where I agree is that no one would say "the police "is" coming" is grammatically correct because "police" is considered plural. I said it depends on what the writer means and the reader understands. It is possible to say "the police is" was my point.

Based on the sources there are no singular forms for police.

Can you give a correct sentence with "the police is?"
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Re: Grammar question: the police is/are ...

Postby Steve James on Sun Aug 25, 2019 12:00 pm

"The police is an uncountable noun."
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Re: Grammar question: the police is/are ...

Postby Bill on Sun Aug 25, 2019 12:12 pm

The police is the community and the community is the police.


NOTE: FOUND ON THE INTERNET.
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Re: Grammar question: the police is/are ...

Postby marvin8 on Sun Aug 25, 2019 12:15 pm

Steve James wrote:"The police is an uncountable noun."

Can you give a correct sentence with "the police is" in the spirit of the OP?
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Re: Grammar question: the police is/are ...

Postby marvin8 on Sun Aug 25, 2019 12:26 pm

Bill wrote:The police is the community and the community is the police.


NOTE: FOUND ON THE INTERNET.

But, there are only 617,000 google matches. "The police are the community" brings up 2,470,000 google matches. ;)

Also:
"the police is coming" brings up 390,000 google matches.
"the police are coming" brings up 644,000 google matches.
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Re: Grammar question: the police is/are ...

Postby Steve James on Sun Aug 25, 2019 12:42 pm

marvin8 wrote:
Steve James wrote:"The police is an uncountable noun."

Can you give a correct sentence with "the police is" in the spirit of the OP?


Haven't I explained that it depends on customary usage and context. No, when by "the police" someone in the US (and I assume in Britain) means "the police force" or "or the police department," he treats it as a plural. Yes, it's uncountable, but so is police force, and we treat it as a singular.

Giles asked which was correct. I said it depends on what the writer means. The issue with English is that there is no arbiter of grammatical rules in the same way that France, Italy, and Spain have academies that determine exactly what is correct French, etc. When a reference talks about "special" cases in English, it seems to imply that there's a rule. In fact, it tends to mean that the subject contradicts a rule. However, that's like the rule "i before e except after c." There really isn't any rule at all. Isn't that weird.

Anyway, wasn't Giles asking what we said in the US? What do they say in Britain. They talk funny over there.
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