Grammar Lesson – Is it ‘the couple has’ or ‘the couple have’?

by Staff writer

‘Couple’ is a collective noun and like most collective nouns should ordinarily go with the singular verb ‘has’.

But things can get a little complicated because unlike other collective nouns like team, flock or committee, ‘couple’ specifically refers two individuals that are often known and can be treated independently.

For the sake of clarity, editors always advise against using ‘couple’ to refer to more than two things (as is very common in informal speaking).

Nowadays, it is becoming more and more common to use the plural verb form ‘have’ for ‘couple’.

1. The couple has three children

2. The couple have three children

But the advice editors usually give is to strive for agreement in your writing; that is, if you are writing of your colleague’s family and have introduced them by saying ‘the couple has done…’ you should not later change to writing “the couple have…”

Additionally, it is suggested that, when possible, the writer should attempt to use the plural or singular verb depending on how they are thinking of the members of this collective noun (as individuals or as a group).

Thus, when writing of a couple getting married (or divorced) it appears to be more common to consider them as two distinct people, and to use the plural form (‘the couple have’).

But when writing of a couple who are an established entity, it is more common to pair them with a singular verb (‘the couple has’).

Lastly, it should be noted that, no matter what kind of verb you pair ‘couple’ with, the pronoun of choice will always be a plural one (they, them, or their).


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