Collective Noun:

Collective nouns are the name given to a group or collection of some other noun (person, place, animal, or thing) taken together and spoken of as one whole. Whenever we hear a collective noun, always an image of a group is formed in our head.

When we come across a proper noun like, Simran, Mumbai, Alaska, Katy, Mandela, Africa, etc. a singular image or we can say an image of an individual is perceived by us.

Likewise, when we come across a common noun like, teacher, doctors, bus, scooters, bulb, books, student, politicians, etc. these can be an individual or more than one.

But, in case of collective nouns like jury, army, class, herd, bunch, committee, group, etc. always an image of multiple things or group is perceived.

So a collective noun is a collection of common nouns belonging to same class.

Examples:

  • Family (it is a group of common nouns like son, daughter, mother, father)
  • Class (group of students is known as Class)
  • Constellation (it a group of stars that form a pattern)
  • Herd (large group of certain animals)
  • Jury (a group of judges)
  • Staff (a group of employees)

In the above examples as you can observe, all are groups of one or the other common noun like student, daughter, mother, star, animals, judges, etc.

Some more Examples of Collective Nouns:

PERSON PLACE ANIMAL THING
Galaxy of planets
Flock of sheep
Flight of stairs
Caravan of gypsies
Range of mountains
Pride of lions
Bunch of grapes
Jury of judges
Block of flats
Pack of wolves
Bunch of keys
Staff of employees
Row of houses
Culture of bacteria
Bouquet of flowers
Council of members
Group of islands
Swarm of bees
Library of books
Band of musicians
Cluster of stars
Drove of horses
Heap of stones
Mob of rioters
Belt of asteroids
Flight of birds
Pair of shoes
Alliance of countries
Litter of cubs
Chest of drawers
Crowd of people
Union of states
Shoal of fishes
Series of events

Ø Collective nouns are Singular or Plural?

Next let us look at the most asked question: Are collective nouns Singular or Plural? This is a quite common doubt. Most of us do grammatical mistakes related to this. To answer this question let us look at two concepts. First, like any other noun collective noun can be either singular or plural.

SINGULAR PLURAL
Army
Armies
Bouquet
Bouquets
Constellation
Constellations
Family
Families
Orchestra
Orchestras
Galaxy
Galaxies
Team
Teams

Each singular collective noun given above is a single ‘unit’. But it consists of more than one individual member. In a similar way each plural collective noun has multiple units where each unit has more than one member.

 So now the confusion is whether to consider a singular collective noun as singular because it is just one unit or consider it as plural because it contains more than one member. Let us understand this with examples.

  • The team is practicing for finals.

Or

  • The team are practicing for finals.

What do you think? Which sentence is correct?

Grammatically, both sentences are correct. The reason is, it depends on the speaker whether he considers the collective noun as a unit or he refers to it as a group having multiple members and talks about each member.

  • The team is practicing for finals. (here we are looking at the team as a single unit)

  • The team are practicing for finals. (here we are talking with respect to each member of the team which are more than one)

But this happens only when each member of the collective noun does one job all together or has same opinion. If they are not working as a unit that is some members do one thing and others do some other thing. Or they have different opinions than the collective noun is always taken as plural.

  • The family is fighting among themselves. (INCORRECT)

  • The family are fighting among themselves. (CORRECT)

Since here each member of the collective noun ‘family’ is not working together or we can say has different opinion and so they are fighting. Thus, it must be considered as plural.

So, when a collective noun is acting collectively than it depends on the speaker whether he/she looks at it as a unit or talks with respect to each member. But when the collective noun is not acting collectively, even if we want to, we cannot consider it as a unit. As each member is not agreeing with every other member and thus it is considered plural.

Some more examples:

  • The board has signed the merger with its parent company in the telecom sector. (here board act as a unit so either singular or plural. Here it is singular.)
  • Even after a discussion of three hours, the jury have contradicting views about who should win. (members do not agree with each other thus, jury plural)
  • The staff has organized a farewell party for its retiring boss. (here staff act as a unit so either singular or plural)
  • The council were unable to reach unison about this amendment. (members of council do not agree with each other thus, it is plural here.)
  • Finally, the audience were mesmerized by his dance performance. (here audience act as a unit so either singular or plural)

Ø Some collective nouns appear to be singular but, are plural in meaning and take plural verbs

Cattle, Police, Women, Men, Children, People, Crowd, Poultry, Clergy, Gentry, Infantry, Cavalry, and Vermin.

Since these nouns are already plural, we never add the suffix ‘-s’ to them to form their plurals. Words like cattles, womens, childrens, crowds, gentries, etc do not exist.

Examples:

  • The police is on its way. (INCORRECT)
  • The police are on their way. (CORRECT)

  • Large cattles are found on the plains. (INCORRECT)
  • Large cattle are found on the plains. (CORRECT)

  • The poultry have been fed.
  • The clergy were with the decision of the king.
  • According to the school rules, children coming to campus should carry their own lunch.
#KEY-POINTS:

  • Collective Noun is the name of a collection of nouns.
  • A collective noun always implicates an image of a group in our heads.
  • It can be considered either singular or plural if all its members act as a unit.
  • It is considered as plural when its members do not act as a unit and have contradicting views.
  • Certain collective nouns like, police, children, men, women, clergy, cattle, crowd, etc. looks like singular nouns but they are plural in meaning so they do not take suffix -s to form plural.
  • Certain collective nouns like, police, children, men, women, clergy, cattle, crowd, etc. always take a plural verb.

#SUMMARY:
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