equipment is/are

Lazar   Tue Oct 17, 2006 12:41 am GMT
<<1. You say that collective nouns take the singular verb form everywhere, but that it not what I was taught. Nor is it what I have read in grammar textbooks. Take a look at this usage note from the American Heritage Dictionary:
"In American usage, a collective noun takes a singular verb when it refers to the collection considered as a whole, as in The family was united on this question. The enemy is suing for peace. It takes a plural verb when it refers to the members of the group considered as individuals, as in My family are always fighting among themselves. The enemy were showing up in groups of three or four to turn in their weapons.">>

Yeah, American English does use plural verb forms for collective nouns sometimes. But what I meant was, "wages" doesn't usually take singular verb forms, whereas collective nouns like "family" and "enemy" regularly take singular verb forms in certain situations. ("My family is good", but "The wages are good".)

At least in my understanding, collective nouns, regardless of what verbal conjugations they use, have to have the appearance of singular nouns. Therefore, collective nouns themselves can be pluralized: "families", "teams", "peoples", etc. There's no way to pluralize the already-plural "wages".

<<2. You say the sentence "the wages of sin is death" is ungrammatical in modern English, but I say that so long as we consider "wages" a collective noun, the sentence is perfectly grammatical. The Elizabethans of course may not have considered it a collective noun, but what difference does that make when we are discussing its grammatical correctness in modern English? Just look at this entry for "wage" from the Random House Unabridged Dictionary:>>

Okay, I'm willing to admit that "the[something]" and "the wages...are...[something]" are both acceptable options for this specific phrase. But I'm not saying that "wages" is a collective noun, I'm just saying that the archaic system of predicate-nominal-priority (as it were) can be preserved in this one phrase. It's sort of like a "fossilized phrase" where a specific archaism can be preserved (along the lines of certain idiomatic expressions in Spanish where the otherwise extinct future subjunctive can optionally be used).
JW   Tue Oct 17, 2006 11:58 am GMT
You are right that collective nouns must be singular in appearance. I had forgotten that. I suppose then that I must agree with you. "Wages" is not a collective noun. Very well done. Thank you for your insight.
MMex   Tue Oct 17, 2006 1:56 pm GMT
Your discussion is very interesting and informative to me! I'd just like to ask one more question: when talking about sports, e.g. football, is only "if the ball goes into the net, the team scores a goal" correct, or is "if the ball goes into the net, the team score a goal" possible as well? To me the second version sounds wrong.
JW   Tue Oct 17, 2006 9:30 pm GMT
The second sentence sounds wrong to me as well. And, indeed, I believe it is wrong in American English. Remember the rule about collective nouns I posted earlier. But this second sentence is, I think, perfectly acceptable in British English. I watched a lot of foreign sports coverage during the World Cup and heard similar sentences all the time.