A few questions on British English

Are you a native speaker of British English? I need your judgements!

Below you find six different sentences; I’m interested in finding out their possible interpretations (some sentences might be interpretable in more than one way, some might not). Leave your replies in the comments or send me an e-mail at myinitial . mylastname 1 at uu.nl. Thank you so much!

—————————————————————-

(1) The group are walking or cycling.

According to you, which of the following statements is true?

(a) For (1) to be true, all group members have to be doing the same thing (either they’re all walking, or they’re all cycling).

(b) Sentence (1) can be true if some of the group members are walking while the others are cycling.

(2) The girl team have more points than the boy team. (in a situation where team members earn points individually, which are then added up to get the team’s total score.)

According to you, which of the following statements is true?

(a) For (2) to be true, the total score of the girl team has to be higher than the total score of the boy team.

(b) Sentence (2) can be true even if the boy team’s total score is higher than the girl team’s total score, as long as the individual girls have more points than the individual boys (for example, if the boy team is much larger than the girl team).

(3) The class were very upset when John kissed their mother.

According to you, which of the following statements is true?

(a) For (3) to be true, all children in the class have to be siblings (i.e. have the same mother).

(b) Sentence (3) is true if each child in the class was upset upon witnessing John kissing that child’s mother; there may be many different mothers involved.

The next three questions involve slight variations on sentences 1-3:

(4) The group is walking or cycling.

Is this sentence grammatical?

(a) yes, you can say this || (b) no, you can’t say this || (c) it’s slightly odd but I understand what it means

If you answered (a) or (c): According to you, which of the following statements is true?

(d) For (4) to be true, all group members have to be doing the same thing (either they’re all walking, or they’re all cycling).

(e) Sentence (4) can be true if some of the group members are walking while the others are cycling.

(5) The girl team has more points than the boy team.

Is this sentence grammatical?

(a) yes, you can say this || (b) no, you can’t say this || (c) it’s slightly odd but I understand what it means

If you answered (a) or (c): According to you, which of the following statements is true?

(d) For (5) to be true, the total score of the girl team has to be higher than the total score of the boy team.

(e) Sentence (5) can be true even if the boy team’s total score is higher than the girl team’s total score, as long as the individual girls have more points than the individual boys (for example, if the boy team is much larger than the girl team).

(6) The class was very upset when John kissed their mother.

Is this sentence grammatical?

(a) yes, you can say this || (b) no, you can’t say this || (c) it’s slightly odd but I understand what it means

If you answered (a) or (c): According to you, which of the following statements is true?

(d) For (3) to be true, all children in the class have to be siblings (i.e. have the same mother).

(e) Sentence (3) is true if each child in the class was upset upon witnessing John kissing that child’s mother; there may be many different mothers involved.

About hannadevries

University lecturer (in linguistics/artificial intelligence) with occasional opinions on religion & social justice-related stuff.
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10 Responses to A few questions on British English

  1. Matthew Gotham says:

    1 b
    2 a
    3 a
    4 a, d
    5 a, d
    6 c, d

  2. (1) a
    (2) a
    (3) a
    (4) a, e
    (5) c, d
    (6) c, e
    🙂

  3. Sophie Chesney says:

    1 b
    2 a
    3 a
    4 a d
    5 a d
    6 c d

  4. Ash Ghinn says:

    1 a
    2 a
    3 a
    4 a d
    5 a d
    6 a d
    I would have liked more options! As I was taught, (1) (2) and (3) would be ungrammatical because a collective noun is singular, and any statements about the group apply to the group as a whole. For sentence (1) “The group are walking or cycling” to report that some of the group members are walking while the others are cycling (as in answer b), it would have to be restructured, as in “The members of the group are walking or cycling”.

    • hannadevries says:

      true! but I’m asking these questions because someone told me that if you use plural agreement, the group sentence can mean the same as your restructured sentence. but it seems that not everyone agrees. thanks for responding & happy birthday!🙂

  5. 1a; 2a; 3a; 4a, d; 5a, d; 6c, d

  6. Blaise Lewis says:

    1) a
    (2) a
    (3) a
    4) c… can infer either d or e (but first thought was ‘e’)
    (5) c (because I would say “the girl’s team” rather than “the girl team”) d
    (6) a… d

  7. Alison says:

    1b
    2a, but more correctly it would be “girl’s team” and “boy’s team”
    3a (for b it would be “mothers”)
    4a, e Actually this makes me realise that 1 is strictly incorrect even though it sounds right. Should be “the group is” or “the group members are”.
    5 a, d
    6 a, d

  8. Zetland says:

    1). a
    2). a
    3). a
    4). c, d (I prefer the plural auxiliary though – and I would use that sentence without adding either, although I realise it loses its potential for ambiguity then.)
    5). c, d (again, I prefer the plural aux.)
    6). c, d (same again)

  9. hannadevries says:

    Thank you so much, everyone!

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