Collective Nouns

What are collective nouns?

Collective nouns refer to words used to represent a group of people or things.

Examples:

• a crowd of people

• a company of actors

• a team of football players

• a troupe of dancers

• a herd of cattle

• a brood of chickens

• a congress of baboons

• a school of fish

• a flight of aeroplanes

• a peal of bells

• a quiver of arrows

etc.

Are collective nouns plural or singular?

In British English collective nouns can be followed by a singular or plural verb depending on whether the group is thought of as one idea, or as many individuals.

Compare these sentences:

The jury returns with a unanimous verdict.

— The subject ‘jury’ (the numbers of jury are working together as a group) requires the singular verb ‘returns’.

The jury often have different reactions to the evidence they hear.

— The plural subject ‘jury’ takes the plural verb ‘have’ because the numbers of jury are being considered as individuals.

In American English collective nouns are always followed by a singular verb, so an American would usually say “Which team is losing?” whereas in British English both plural and singular forms of the verb are possible, as in “Which team is/are losing?”

Now why don’t you try this exercise?

 

Watch this video lesson from Shmoop. It will teach you collective nouns in a simple way.

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