What is a collective noun?

A collective noun identifies a single entity made up of a group of people, animals, places, things, or ideas. While there are multiple items within the group, the group itself is recognized as one unit.

What is a collective noun

The U.S. Army is a proper noun that is also a collective noun.

Table of Contents

  1. Definition
  2. Singular and plural forms
  3. Examples

Singular and plural forms of collective nouns

Collective nouns can be singular or plural depending upon their use in a sentence.

Singular and plural forms of collective nouns

Functioning as a single unit makes the collective noun singular and requires a singular verb and singular pronouns. When members of the group act as individuals, it becomes a plural collective noun and requires plural pronouns and a plural verb:

The faculty decided to move the assembly to next week.

The faculty acted as a group in making the decision. Therefore, “faculty” is classified as a singular collective noun.

Moving the assembly was so unnecessary that the faculty were shaking their heads in disapproval.

Since it would be unlikely that every faculty member was shaking their head in unison, they are now acting as individuals, making “faculty” a plural collective noun.

The following sentences provide examples of how and when to use singular versus plural nouns and the appropriate subject-verb agreement:

Examples sentences using singular vs. plural nouns
Collective noun Singular example Plural example
Family The family is flying to Europe over the summer. The family members are taking different flights to Europe.
Herd The herd is staying on the farmer’s property. Parts of the herd are leaving the farmer’s property.
Bushel The bushel is ripe enough to eat. Most of the apples in the bushel are ripe enough to eat.

Collective noun examples

While there are over 200 in the English language, the most common collective nouns include the following:

Examples of collective nouns
Group of people Group of animals Group of things
army bed of oysters batch
audience colony of ants bunch
class flock of birds bundle
crowd gaggle of geese bushel
faculty herd of cows cluster
family litter of kittens fleet
gang murder of crows grove
group pack of wolves pack
jury pride of lions pile
squad school of fish set
team swarm of bees stack

Collective noun examples

The following sentences use examples of collective nouns:

  • People
    • The choir received a standing ovation from the audience.
    • The jury delivered their verdict to the judge.
    • Despite the loss of their quarterback, the team stayed positive.
  • Animals
    • Luckily, she closed the window before the swarm got into the house.
    • It was hard to pick just one kitten from the litter.
    • The troop of baboons made its nest for the night.
  • Things
    • The fleet of ships left the harbor this morning.
    • While cleaning out the desk, we found a stack of old magazines.
    • Stephanie returned from the grocery store with a bunch of bananas.

What you learned:

After working your way through this lesson and video, you have learned:

  • What collective nouns are
  • How collective nouns are used in their singular and plural forms
  • Several examples of collective nouns in the English language
Instructor: Malcolm M.
Malcolm has a Master's Degree in education and holds four teaching certificates. He has been a public school teacher for 27 years, including 15 years as a mathematics teacher.

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