What is a Collective Noun? | Definition and Examples
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- Collective Nouns
A collective noun denotes a group of people, animals, ideas, or things as a single entity.
a galaxy of stars
a bouquet of flowers
a bunch of grapes
The words "galaxy", "bouquet", and "bunch" are nouns that represent a group.
The English language is so rich that it has a very vast collection of collective nouns. Here is a handy list of commonly-used collective nouns.
Click on the Circles to Spot the Seven Collective Nouns
Differentiating between a Collective Noun and a Countable Noun
As they refer to a group of countable nouns as a unit, collective nouns are a subcategory of countable nouns.
There are 10 birds. (countable noun)
There is a flock of birds. (collective noun)
Collective Nouns that Can Be Used for More Than One Noun
The collective noun "herd" can be used to refer to a group of deer, elephants, and cattle.
a herd of deer
a herd of elephants
a herd of cattle
Verb and Pronoun Agreement with a Collective Noun
Collective nouns mostly take a singular verb.
The team is playing well.
There are, however, instances when the verb can be either singular or plural.
Quick tip: The trick is to verify if the members of a collective noun are acting as a unit or individuals. Their acting as a unit will mean you must use a singular verb or pronoun, just as their functioning as individuals would mean you should use a plural verb or pronoun.
Kevin's family consists of five people. (The family is considered as a unit.)
Kevin's family have asked him to buy them Christmas gifts. (Each family member has asked for a separate gift.)
Quick tip: Add a word to denote the members of the group to make it unambiguous.
The members of the jury were divided in their views.
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