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Q: Grammar question: The target audience is/are....(?) ( Answered,   5 Comments )
Subject: Grammar question: The target audience is/are....(?)
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: alsinger-ga
List Price: $3.00
Posted: 18 Jan 2005 05:14 PST
Expires: 17 Feb 2005 05:14 PST
Question ID: 459156
A friend asked me to check some text in a book before it goes to the
printer next months.  I came across this sentence:

"The target audience is young people in Western countries...." 

I wonder whether it should read:....audience are young people....?  
("are", not "is")

Please give me your views.
Subject: Re: Grammar question: The target audience is/are....(?)
Answered By: librariankt-ga on 18 Jan 2005 08:56 PST
Hi Alsinger,

Since the noun "audience" is the subject of the sentence and is
singular, the verb should be a singular form:  "The target audience is
young people..." is correct.

Here are the rules on collective nouns from the American Heritage
Dictionary (courtesy of, my favorite site for English
definitions, synonyms, and general reference):
"Some nouns, like committee, clergy, enemy, group, family, and team,
refer to a group but are singular in form. These nouns are called
collective nouns. 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 or 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 or The enemy were showing up in groups of three or
four to turn in their weapons."

This is a common problem with copyediting - largely because it seems
like a group made up of multiple people should take a verb appropriate
for the number of people rather than the number of groups.  Such is

Let me know if you need any clarification,


Subject: Re: Grammar question: The target audience is/are....(?)
From: rogerwilco-ga on 18 Jan 2005 08:48 PST
I would use 'is', not 'are'. 'Audience' is a collective singular, like
'everybody,' and the verb should therefore be in the singular.
("Everybody is having a good time. The audience is very excited
today.") However, if you were to refer to audience *members,* that
would take the plural. ("The audience is relatively well-behaved, but
a few of its younger members are talking and throwing things onto the
stage.") So your friend's sentence is correct as it stands.
Hope this helps.
Subject: Re: Grammar question: The target audience is/are....(?)
From: byrd-ga on 18 Jan 2005 08:57 PST
"Audience" is the singular subject of this sentence, "is" is the
singular predicate (or verb). According to the rules of English
grammar, subject and predicate must agree in number and tense, so
"are" would be incorrect here. "People" is the direct object of the
verb ("young" is a modifying adjective) in this sentence and has no
bearing on whether the verb should be singular or plural.  Here's a
nice, concise hypertext guide to English grammar you may find useful:

Subject: Re: Grammar question: The target audience is/are....(?)
From: nelson-ga on 18 Jan 2005 09:46 PST
Of course, the treatment of collective nouns in U.K. (and
Commonwealth) Englich varies.  I'm not sure about audience, but look
at the following:

U.S.: The team is practicing.
U.K.: The team are practising.

(Using the wrong one one the wrong country will sound jarring and incorrect.)
Subject: Re: Grammar question: The target audience is/are....(?)
From: jack_of_few_trades-ga on 18 Jan 2005 12:48 PST
And lets not forget those tricky subjects that can be either singular
or plural depending on the predicate:

"Such is life." --quote from librariankt-ga's answer
Such are the days of our lives.
Subject: Re: Grammar question: The target audience is/are....(?)
From: librariankt-ga on 19 Jan 2005 06:43 PST
Nelson is correct that UK and US grammar rules differ on this point. 
The definition that I gave in the answer takes that into account in a
part that I left out (didn't want to copy the whole thing, it was
long).  There I go with my American-centric ways... LKT

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