DP
By Anataku1997 • 12th Feb 2019 • 14 views • 0 comments

Two weeks ago, I asked the class to choose between ‘have’ and ‘has’ in terms of the verb that should follow the phrase, ‘the police’. It was part of the homework for the week. While some people chose right, others fell flat and I am not surprised that things went that way because it is a common problem. Consider the following examples too:



The INEC boss believes the police (has/ have) a responsibility to protect the voters.


The police (is/are) planning to seal off the compound.


The police regularly (conducts/ conduct) investigations.


What is your option for each of the clauses? Is it that the police has or have; the police is planning or are planning; and the police conducts or conduct? Please note that the second option is the correct answer in each:



The INEC boss believes the police have a responsibility to protect the voters.


The police are planning to seal off the compound.


The police regularly conduct investigations.


Like family, community and audience, ‘police’ is a collective noun – a word that stands for a group or collection of things, with examples including community, family, audience and government. One basic attribute of collective nouns is that they can choose both the singular and plural verbs. So, while you can have ‘The audience is lousy’, it is also correct to say ‘The audience are lousy’. The same way, it is correct to say ‘His family is in London’ and ‘His family are in London’. In the case of the latter, the family is considered as a single unit in the first usage while it is treated as a combination of different people in the second. Experts note that American English is more disposed to treating collective nouns as singular units while British English treats them as singular and plural.


You are then likely to wonder why I said it was wrong to use has, is and conducts with ‘police’ in the examples I gave. The reason is that, whether in British English or American English, it (police) is treated as a plural noun, meaning it selects only plural verbs: 


I learnt that the police is looking for me. (Wrong)



I learnt that the police are looking for me. (Correct)


The police hasn’t charged the suspect to court. (Wrong)


The police haven’t charged the suspect to court. (Correct)


But you have to beware of overgeneralisation in this regard. The explanation above does not mean that any time you see any word relating to ‘police’ a plural verb must be used. No. You should not, for instance, use plural verbs with expressions such as policeman, police officer, police command and even The Nigeria Police Force. Each of these is a singular noun or phrase, with ‘police’ more or less performing the function of an adjective. Treat them as singular concepts:


The policeman have gone. (Wrong)


 The policeman has gone. (Correct)


The Lagos State Police Command now have a new boss. (Wrong)


The Lagos Police command now has a new boss. (Correct)


The Nigeria Police Force need to rethink its operation strategy. (Wrong)



The Nigeria Police Force needs to rethink its operation strategy. (Correct) 



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