Collective Nouns

Every day we come across many collective nouns during regular conversations, speech, etc. Words that denote more than one person, thing or place are changed into its plural form in the English Language, but the exception to this typical rule is collective nouns. This unique class of noun is used for representing a group of animal, people, objects, ideas as a single entity. This group represents a group of certain things as a whole or represents the group of certain things collectively.

Collective nouns:

A unique class of nouns that denotes words for single things which comprises of more than one person, place, animal, thing, or concept is termed as collective nouns. For example, a team is a single entity, but a team is made up of many individual members. Few other examples of collective nouns are family, audience, flock, crowd, team, committee, choir, group among others.

Comparing collective nouns with other major types of nouns:

There is always confusion regarding the use of various types of nouns. They can be divided into countable, mass and collective nouns.

Countable Nouns: These are nouns that can be counted. These types of nouns can be present in both singular and plural form. They can also be quantified with amount, size, or words that represent value.

Mass Nouns: These types of nouns can also be termed non-countable nouns. Mass nouns represent unbounded amounts, immeasurable concepts, and abstracts amounts. Mass nouns cannot be counted, modified or quantified in a logical and relevant way.

Collective Nouns: These are regarded as a subset of countable nouns because they refer to a group of the countable noun to a single unit. For example, a dozen consists of 12 objects/things together; a deck includes 52 cards.

There are many collective nouns. However, few example sentences are given below to show the collective noun examples.

  • Our class was sitting patiently for the next lecture.
  • The cowboys rounded up the herd of cows grazing on the pasture grasses.
  • The debate team from our University won the annual debate championship.
  • The town council denied the people’s appeal to create an amusement park.
  • We are a family of four.
  • The band of singers is constantly on road tour this year for their concerts.
  • The audience was mesmerized by the beautiful act performed in the opera.

Common Collective nouns

The below-mentioned list consists of words that represent or denotes groups of animals, places, objects, and things. In some cases, these words can be interchanged and can be used to describe different things. For example, the collective noun “swarm” is used to represent a group of ants, bees, and files. However, the word “swarm” is also used for representing a very busy crowd of people.

Herd– This is used to denote a group of herbivore animals such as cows, bison’s, cattle’s, etc.

Pack– This is used to describe a group of carnivore/ canine animals such as wolves, dogs. It is also used to denote playing cards and packages that consists of multiple objects

Flock– This represents a group of birds. It is also used to represent small hooved animals such as goats, sheep’s, etc.

Swarm– This is used to denote a group of insects.

Shoal– This is used for a group of fish.

Group – This is a very general collective noun used for describing people, places, things, animals, etc.

Crowd – Referred to a group of people.

Gang – Referred to a group of criminals. It is also used to denote a group of workers such as sailors or dock workers.

Mob – Generally referred to as a group of angry or unruly people. It is also used for describing a group of kangaroos

Staff – This term is a collective noun for a group of people working in the same place

Crew – This term is a collective noun group of workers. It is also used to denotes aircraft and ships personnel

Choir – This is used to describe a large, organized group of singers

Orchestra – An organized and large group of instrumentalists that are led by a conductor.

Panel – Term used to describe many experts in a single group.

Board – Usually, a professional group of people taking on an advisory role.

Troupe – Used for describing a group of monkeys. It is also used for describing actors or acrobats.

Bunch – Usually represent small objects grouped together such as grapes, keys, flowers, etc.

Pile – A collection of untidy objects such as rubbish.

Heap – It is used to represent a huge pile of items, a lot of items. It is sometimes interchanged with the pile.

Set – A group of tidy and matched objects such as cups, dishes, etc.

Stack – Group of objects kept one on top of other such as a stack of books.

Series – A series of books, movies or events occurring one after the other such Harry Potter series.

Shower – Usually used to denote rain, although it can be used to describe gifts or compliments.

Fall – Denotes, rain, snow, hail and sometimes movies.

How to use collective nouns?

Most of the time proper use of collective nouns creates confusion. The main problem arises that whether to use a singular verb or plural verb in a given sentence. However, collective nouns can be used both in a singular as well as the plural verb.

Singular Verb: If a group is working together as a single unit or entity then a singular verb is used with it. For example, The class is waiting for the professor to start his lecture. All the students in the class are waiting together collectively for the professor to begin his lecture.

When people are collectively engaged in a single activity together such as choir members sing together. Therefore, singular verb and singular pronouns are paired with these collective nouns such as a team, a choir, a committee

For example:

All the committee members denied the children’s request to build a children park.

Plural verb- Plural verbs and plural pronouns are used with a collective group that is together but they are working individually, or different units are working differently in it. For example: The workers started their work while they were waiting for the next instruction of their manager.

Another way of representing a group of people in a collective noun is by using particular words that denote individual units. For example: committee, board, etc.

For example, if three peoples are present in a single room and all of them are doing something different.  Therefore, members of collective noun doing individual works are plural and must be used with plural pronouns and plural verbs.

After taking the tests, the student started their papers on English sonnets.

Exception:

As per the Oxford dictionary, collective noun “Police” is supposed to represent the plural form. Nowadays police are used as singular form as well.

There are many types of nouns that denote to groups or units in a collective manner.

Commonly used collective nouns include:

Array, Audience, Army, Band, Board, Bunch, Bevy, Cabinet, Chorus, Class, Cast, Choir, Cloud, Congregation, Corporation, Council, Crowd, Committee, Company, Department, Firm, Faculty, Family, Gang, Group, Jury, Minority, Majority, Navy, Plethora, Public, Party, Society, Staff, School, Senate, Team, Troupe.

Commonly used collective animal nouns include:

Brood, Clutch, Colony, Drove, Flock, Flight, Gaggle, Hive, Herd, Litter, Nest, Pride, Pack, Plague, Swarm, Skein, Tribe, Troop, Team, Yoke.