Grammar question: the police is/are ...

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

Postby oragami_itto on Sun Aug 25, 2019 2:01 pm

On cop shows, like The Wire, the sometimes refer to an individual cop as a police. Like "he was a good police"

According to a cop on this Reddit thread, it's a baltimore regional police dialect thing. ... her_using/
Last edited by oragami_itto on Sun Aug 25, 2019 6:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Grammar question: the police is/are ...

Postby marvin8 on Sun Aug 25, 2019 5:47 pm

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.
Steve James wrote:
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.

Yes, but after I posted sources that state the noun "police" is always properly treated as a plural. It is never properly treated as a singular.

Given that rule, it doesn't "depend on what the writer means or whether the writer is using it as a singular or plural," as you stated.

No, "the police" (which is treated as plural) does not mean "the police force" or "the police department" (which is treated as singular), as Giles partly explains:
Giles wrote: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.

Steve James wrote: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.

Since "there really isn't any rule at all," can you post 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 Steve James on Sun Aug 25, 2019 6:13 pm

No, I don't know a case of "the police" (meaning more than one) where someone would use the singular. It's a convention, not a rule, and it can change because no one defines the rules of English. As Greg says, there are times when someone would say "the police is at the door."

Students are sometimes confused why "everyone" is always singular, for ex. The simple answer is that everyone can be just one. Or, why do we say "one and one is two" when the "rule" suggests that it should be "one and one are two" --which is what one says in Spanish: "Uno y uno son dos." Well, we find that numbers are a "special" case in English. It's a convention that we have to learn.

But, as I said, the interesting aspect of this discussion was Giles' question about the difference between British English and American English. If there was a disagreement, it's certainly because someone uses "is."
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Re: Grammar question: the police is/are ...

Postby Bao on Mon Aug 26, 2019 12:16 am

Interesting discussion. Thanks, I need more of this.

As I have understood it, The police as an organ or a department, i.e. used a single unit is singular thus should be "is". For my own non-English, uneducated ears "The police force" sounds like singular, one single unit.

I've had a lot of problems with is and are. It's not so much about what is singular or plural, but more about the construction of the sentences and reference to what word. For me at least, it's easy to make mistakes if I don't keep the reference in mind. I believe that I have seen the same kind of mistake in forums and and groups from English speaking people.
Last edited by Bao on Mon Aug 26, 2019 12:17 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Grammar question: the police is/are ...

Postby Giles on Mon Aug 26, 2019 2:20 am

Thanks all round for the feedback, guys! :D :D

Interesting thoughts and examples from all sides. As a professional translator I am pretty much familiar with the conceptual variations and grammar of the noun (group) discussed here, but your answers and thoughts are still very nice to hear. As regards my original question ;) your responses confirm my impression that in "standard, educated" American English one would normally say, for example, "The police are hunting the criminal" or "The police are coming!" and not "The police is hunting the criminal" or "The police is coming!". Surely one can find exceptions in usage, some dependent on a particular context or possibly more 'streetspeak' but my concern here was to understand on which side the scales usually tip in the US. Above all, none of you AE guys has jumped in to say No, we say things like 'the police is on the way here' all the time. So that seems pretty clear. -- If anyone does want to contradict this finding, then please shoot...!!

In British English we tend to treat collective nouns as a plural anyway. But since I currently need to translate a lot of spoken German into AE and "die Polizei" occurs quite frequently, this was my main point of focus. Now I can enter into discussion with my client again on a sounder footing.
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