It's the day after, and half of us are elated and half of us are despondent and a bipartisan group of us is wondering if this sentence is a big, fat grammatical mess.
That group, which counts yours truly as a member, finds subject/verb agreement to be about as clear as a Chicago election ballot, which is to say: Not at all clear. Very, very not clear.
For example: Why do I say "half of us are elated" instead of "half of us is elated"? Especially when later, in the same sentence, I say "a bipartisan group of us is wondering" instead of "a bipartisan group of us are wondering"?
Getting your collective nouns to agree with your verbs is tricky—collective nouns being those nouns that describe a group of individuals (school, family, audience, committee).
Daniel Smith's newly released manual, "Is Their Alot Wrong With This Centence? An English Grammar Workbook" (Trafalgar Square Publishing) addresses the topic deftly.
"Since the collective noun treats a collection of individuals as a single entity, it should take the singular verb," Smith writes.
The group is arriving at 7:30. The audience applauds. The choir sings beautifully.
There are, of course, exceptions.
"Sometimes we are referring to the actions of individuals within the group," Smith writes. "In such cases, the noun takes the plural."
•The family is coming for Christmas.
•The family were arguing throughout Christmas dinner.
What if you throw an "of" in the mix?
"When a collective noun is followed by 'of' plus a plural noun or pronoun, the choice between a singular and a plural verb remains open," says Fowler's Modern English Usage. "But in practice a plural verb is somewhat more common."
•A large number of conductors want to hear the great artists.
•The current crop of bestsellers include a number of monuments to bad taste.
What about when "of" follows a numerical phrase (half of, five of, 30 percent of)?
"When an 'of' phrase follows a percentage, distance, fraction or amount, the verb agrees with the noun closest to the verb," according to an online tutorial from the Yale Graduate School Writing Center.