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NOUNS : What is a Noun? : Abstract Nouns : Collective Nouns : Case Nouns : Possessive Nouns : Common Nouns : Gender Nouns : Plural of Compound Nouns : Proper Nouns

What are Collective Nouns?

Collective NounsCommon nouns have two kinds of nouns: Abstract and Collective nouns. To avoid confusion, we will consider them distinct, and we will not use the name common in connection with them.

A Collective noun is the name of a group of persons or things.

EX.— class, army, senate, nation, audience.



Part I: Number of Collective Nouns

Collective nouns—unlike abstract nouns—may become plural, such as: army, armies; class, classes.

Again, a singular collective noun—referring to a group of persons or things regarded as an entity—takes a verb in the singular number; but when we regard the group of persons or things as individuals, the noun takes a verb in the plural.

Singular

EX.— The army of a country is always on active duty.
EX.— The class has been organized.
EX.— The club meets every Sunday.
EX.— The crew is large.
EX.— My family is happy.
EX.— This people is a talented race.
EX.— The nation that exists must thrive.
EX.— A flock of birds is flying over the ocean.
EX.— The herd is in the pasture.


Plural

EX.— The army is waiting for their supplies.
EX.— The class are disputing about their homework.
EX.— The club are planning a dinner for their friends.

EX.— The crew were kept busy until they were finished at midnight.

EX.— How is your family?
EX.— My family are all well.
EX.— Those people are tourists.
EX.— The nation are all opposed to the new laws.
EX.— The flock of ducks were eating seeds in the grass.
EX.— A herd of deer are feeding in the forest.

Part II: Number of Collective Nouns

Here are more examples of using collective nouns in both singular and plural forms.

EX.— A committee has been appointed to make your life easier.
(Committee is singular here and requires a singular verb.)

EX.— The committee are all of the same opinion.

(Each one expresses an opinion, making the subject plural.)

EX.— The committee has offered the following rules.

(Committee is taken as a whole.)

EX.— The board has recessed.

(Not the members, but the board as a body has adjourned.)

EX.— The board all favor the new budget.

(Each one gives an opinion.)

EX.— The jury has submitted a verdict.

(Thought of as an entity.)

EX.— The class, which has just graduated, will go to college in a few months.

(Class is regarded as an entity.)

EX.— The class, who were typing in another room, startled by the noise, jumped up from their seats and rushed into an adjoining room.

(Reference is to each individual.)

EX.— The Department of Education has increased the budget for this year.

(Regarded as an entity.)

EX.— The Department of Transportation have been working in favor to one another to improve the subway systems.

(Have is the required verb; the department being divided in itself, makes it plural in form.)

EX.— The baseball team are attending next week's game, and they will bring their own gear.

(Not the team, but the players are attending next week's game, therefore the subject is plural.)

EX.— The political party has decided to increase its capital.

(Taken as a whole.)

EX.— The club have argued among themselves and more trouble ensued.

(Club is divided, making a plural subject.)

NOTE— Sometimes we regard a collective noun as both singular and plural in the same construction. While it is best to avoid shifting the singular to the plural number, it seems impossible to use the same number throughout. In the following examples, changing the singular to the plural seems troublesome and odd sounding.

EX.— "The baseball team was founded by Fred Johnson, not the basketball player, and were the number one team in last year's playoffs."

EX.— "Their cattle was their responsibility, and these were fed each night inside the fenced area."

In the following sentences it is not necessary to change the number of either the verb or the pronoun.

Original

EX.— "When a nation forms a government, it is not intellect, but power, which they place in the hands of the government."

EX.— "The court in discharge of its duty believe," etc.

Improved

EX.— "When a nation forms a government, it is not intellect, but power, which it places in the hands of the government.

EX.— "The court in discharge of its duty believes," etc.

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NOUNS : What is a Noun? : Abstract Nouns : Collective Nouns : Case Nouns : Possessive Nouns : Common Nouns : Gender Nouns : Plural of Compound Nouns : Proper Nouns