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What are Collective Nouns?

Devon Denomme, Amy Bonn
  • Author
    Devon Denomme

    Devon has tutored for almost two years. They have a Bachelor's in Air Traffic Management from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and minored in Aviation Safety and Homeland Security. They also are AT-CTI certified.

  • Instructor
    Amy Bonn

    Amy has taught college and law school writing courses. She holds a master's degree in English and a law degree.

Explore collective nouns and see examples. Learn to identify collective nouns and how they are used in sentences. Compare collective nouns to singular nouns. Updated: 08/10/2021

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What Is a Collective Noun?

A collective noun is defined as a noun that identifies a group of people, animals, or things. They are described as one unit. Collective nouns differ from singular nouns because singular nouns only describe one person or object.

A class (of students) is a collective noun. It describes a group of students as one unit and should be used with a singular verb or pronoun in a sentence, such as 'The class is going on its first field trip this year.'

what does collective noun mean

Collective nouns are used in everyday speech and are commonly found throughout writing. In most cases, collective nouns are treated as singular nouns in writing, even though they are technically a group of people or objects. Most collective nouns are common nouns, meaning that they are general objects and not a specific person, place, or thing. However, sometimes proper nouns, which are specific things like organizations, are used as collective nouns. For example, Apple is an organization with many people in it. Using "Apple" as a collective noun describes everyone who works at the company.

Origin of Collective Nouns

Collective nouns were first used in the 15th century, most likely in England. At the time, the church was a dominant power in society and directed the way society was run. The use of collective nouns began as a way to address the large congregations of people attending church or participating in church events.

The use of collective nouns has evolved over the years as they have been adapted to other languages. Languages themselves change over time, with new sentence structures and figures of speech. New societal norms and practices have also impacted the use of certain collective nouns. Over the past few centuries, collective nouns have remained true to their roots and continue to describe a group of people, animals, or things.

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Collective Noun Examples

Collective nouns are spoken and written often. The following collective noun examples are some of the most popular in the English language:

  • A team
  • A band
  • A crew
  • A set
  • A jury
  • A crowd
  • A board
  • A bunch
  • A pair
  • A family

These examples of collective nouns are all treated as singular nouns. They are also common because they are a general group of something. When used in a sentence, a couple of the examples may appear as:

  1. The baseball team won their playoff match.
  2. The jury decided on the verdict.
  3. My family is quite large.

Proper nouns can be used as collective nouns, too. They should be treated as a singular noun if acting as a whole, but plural if one member of the group is acting individually.

  1. Disney has a good streaming service.
  2. Microsoft makes reliable products.
  3. Food Network is my favorite television channel.

A pride is a collective noun used to describe a group of lions. Again, they are acting singularly, so they should be matched with a singular verb and pronoun. 'The pride rests in the grass.'

collective noun definition

When collective nouns began to be used to describe a group of animals at the end of the 15th century (following the grouping of people or objects), the same mechanics were followed for treating the noun as singular. Here are some examples of how animals can be grouped using collective nouns.

  1. The flock of seagulls landed on the beach.
  2. A murder of crows flew overhead.
  3. The pack of wolves went hunting last night.

Collective Nouns in Subject-Verb Agreement

There is a difference between using singular collective nouns and plural collective nouns so that the subject and the verb of a sentence both agree. When a collective noun is treated singularly, everything in that group should be acting as one unit. Often, this will mean adding an "s" onto the end of the verb, which makes it singular. If a plural collective noun is being used, then the verb usually will not have an "s" on the end. Plural collective nouns imply that an individual within the group is being described. Pronouns should also be adapted to singular or plural to match the intended usage of the collective noun. For example:

  • The jury makes its decision at sunset.
  • We are waiting for the jury members to make their decision.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is collective noun with example?

Collective nouns are nouns used to describe a group of people, animals, or things as one unit. A few examples of collective nouns are:

  • A gaggle of geese
  • A troop of monkeys
  • A band of musicians
  • A crew
  • A family

How do you explain collective nouns?

Collective nouns describe a group of people, animals, or things as one unit. They can be used in a singular or plural form, although in American English they are most used singularly. The subject and verb must agree when collective nouns are used in a sentence, as well as any pronouns being used.

  • The organization is raising money through its bake sale.
  • The herd of deer moves quickly through the forest.

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