Q:在 He’s on the finance committee which controls city council spending. 和 The human resources committee who are all scholars are going to meet on Thursday. 這兩句中,同樣是 committee,它們所用的關係代名詞為何一個是指事物的 which,而一個是指人的 who 呢?

A:committee, team, family, jury, government, audience, army, crew, company, firm (包括公司、機構和組織的名稱,如 UN, BBC, CNN, Sony 等等) 等字在英文中叫做「集合名詞」(collective nouns)。這些集合名詞後面可接單數或複數動詞。如果把它們視為一個整體,那麼它們就使用單數動詞及相對應的代名詞,且其關係代名詞須用 which (或 that);如果把它們視為個體的集合,那麼它們就使用複數動詞及相對應的代名詞,且其關係代名詞須用 who。

從上述可知,He’s on the finance committee which controls city council spending. (他是控制市議會支出的財政委會的委員) 中的 committee 被視為一個整體,即委員會,而 The human resources committee who are all scholars are going to meet on Thursday. (人力資源委員會的委員將在星期四開會。他們都是學者) 中的 committee 被視為個別成員,即委員會的所有委員。

在上下文中,有可能會出現上一句使用單數動詞,而下一句使用複數動詞的情況,如 The government is going to cut back on public spending. They have decided this is necessary in the current economic climate. (政府將削減公共支出。他們已決定,在目前的經濟氣候中,這是必要的措施)。請再看下面的例句:

  • My family, who have lived on this island all their lives, are determined to remain here. (我的家人一生都住在這個島上,他們決定繼續留在這裡)
  • My firm, which was established in 1932, has been manufacturing vacuum cleaners since the 1950s. They look after me very well and have an excellent pension scheme. (我的公司創立於 1932 年,自 1950 年代以來一直在製造吸塵器。他們很照顧我且有良好的退休金計畫)
  • The jury retires to consider its verdict. (陪審團退下去考慮該如何判決)
    The jury retire to consider their verdict.

一般而言,對於這類集合名詞,英式英語傾向於使用複數動詞,而美式英語則傾向於使用單數動詞。不過,當這些集合名詞前面有 a, each, every, this 或 that 等單數的限定詞時,它們一定要用單數動詞及相對應的代名詞。例如:

  • A government which fails to honor its promises should not be re-elected. (未能兌現諾言的政府不應再當選連任)
  • That team is capable of winning all the major trophies this year. (該隊有能力贏得今年所有重大比賽的獎盃)

然而,並非所有集合名詞 (英文約有 200 個常用的集合名詞) 都可以接單數或複數動詞。有些集合名詞只能接複數動詞,如 people, police, military, clergy, cattle 以及用做集合名詞的形容詞,如 the rich, the poor, the homeless 等;有些則只能接單數動詞 (尤其是無生命的物品 — 這些名詞被視為不可數),如 baggage, luggage, cutlery, furniture, underwear, china, earthenware, porcelain 等。

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