English as a Second Language/Q&A
QUESTION: Dear Shannon,
I am not quite sure how to answer this question.
"Does your family read a newspaper?"
What is the correct answer? "Yes, it does" or "Yes, they do".
Thanks for your continuous support.
ANSWER: We would say, "yes, they do." I know the grammar is a bit odd, but as the word family is very closely related to humans, we would never use "it" since that only describes things without gender. Ironically, if we spoke of a group, it would be ok.
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QUESTION: Thanks! But I know that 'family' is a collective noun (we can use singular or plural verbs or pronouns). The writer uses "does" so he considers "family' as a unit, not as separate individuals. So why is the answer "Yes, it does" wrong?
Moreover, I read a another sentence saying "The family is determined to press its claim." ("its" not "their").
It is quite confusing. Please help me out!
Unfortunately, this is something that has no easy answer. If you use British English, it is always plural, but I'm not sure about limitations or usage in question words. I, personally, have never heard the question, "Do your family...," "Do your team...," or "Do your government...," etc. Typically in American English, we like to use the singular entity in question words. In your subsequent reference back to the collective noun, basically if you think of the family as one unit, it is singular. If you are considering them as individuals, you would use them separately, even if the original reference was singular.