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1. Collective nouns

Collective nouns are words in singular that designate a certain group of people, animals or things.
The team is about to go out on the court.
My family owns a cow farm.

2. How do we use collective nouns?

Collective nouns can be used with a singular verb or a plural verb.

Examples of singular verbs are: is, was, has, (go)es...

Examples of plural verbs are: are, were, have, (go)...

  • When we want to refer to the group as a unit, we use a singular verb.
    The city council has raised the garbage tax.
    In this example we do not express that each member of the council has raised the tax, but the council as a unit.
    The band is on tour at the moment.
    In this example we express that all the members of the band as a group go on tour at the same time.

The use of the verb in the singular or in the plural is therefore given by that to which the speaker wants to refer, whether to the whole or to individual members. In American English the verb is usually used in the singular.

In case of doubt, you can add words like: members, players (team)..., to make sure that the verb is used correctly.
The staff members in this pub are really friendly.

The players of the team are celebrating their victory.

3. Some collective nouns to designate groups

Below is a table with some collective nouns to refer to groups of people, animals and things.

PeOPLE Animals THINGS
Jury A herd of cattle A lock of hair
Family A herd of elephants A pack / deck of cards
Staff A flock of birds A bunch of flowers
Team A flock of sheep A bunch of carrots
Council A shoal / school of fish A batch of bread
Audience A litter of kittens A fleet of ships
Gang A pride of lions A bundle of firewood
Panel A colony of ants A cluster of grapes
Mob A cloud of insects A heap of rubbish
Company A pack of wolves A convoy of lorries
Band A caravan of camels A flight of steps
Choir A swarm of bees A string of garlic
Crew A culture of bacteria A set of coffee cups
Army A team of horses A wad of banknotes

Remember!

Collective nouns are singular words that designate a certain group of people, animals or things.
Verb Use Example
Singular When we want to refer to the group as a unit The jury considers that the defendant is guilty.
Plural When we want to refer to each or most members of the group The jury don't agree on the verdict.

 

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