Among the many confusing aspects of the English language is pronoun agreement with nouns that refer to a group or an object consisting of several members. Known as collective nouns, words like army, committee, faculty, school and team, seem to refer to more than one person or object.
A collective noun, however, actually is an “individual” of sorts, as it typically shows members of that group working in unison or as a lone, single entity.
Given this, collective nouns usually are singular, meaning they require a singular pronoun. Hence, we would say…
The team took the field, determined to win its final game.
The team took the field, determined to win their final game.
Sometimes, however, sentences are constructed in such a way that a collective noun does require a plural pronoun. That occurs when the members of the group each perform different actions or take on different responsibilities. To wit:
The marching band took their seats in the stands, brass in one row, drums above them, wind instruments in the front.
There is a trick you can use to ensure the right pronoun is used. Simply add “members” to the collective noun. Members is a plural noun that requires a plural pronoun. So the previous sentence could be written as:
Members of the marching band took their seats in the stands, brass in one row, drums above them, wind instruments in the front.
My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.