A collective noun is a noun that represents a collection of individuals, usually people, such as:
- a team (for example: eleven football players)
- a family (for example: mother, father and two children)
- a crew (for example: 100 sailors)
Here are some more collective noun examples. As you see, collective nouns can consist of a few people or tens, hundreds or thousands of people:
- committee, jury, senate, company, audience, police, army
- animals: a herd of cows, a flock of sheep
- objects: a fleet of ships, a convoy of trucks
Proper Nouns as Collective Nouns
Many collective nouns are common nouns, but they can also be proper nouns when they are the name of a company or other organisation with more than one person, for example Microsoft . Here are some more examples of collective nouns that are proper nouns:
- Sony, Apple, CNN, the BBC, the United Nations, WHO, Thai Air, Interpol, the FBI, Cambridge University, Manchester United
Is a Collective Noun Singular or Plural?
Each of the collective nouns above is a single "thing". But it consists of more than one individual. So the question arises: is a collective noun singular or plural?
To which the answer is: it depends. A collective noun can be singular OR plural, depending on how you see the individuals in the group.
If you see the individuals acting together , as a whole, then you probably treat the collective noun as singular (with singular verbs and singular pronouns), for example:
- The jury has delivered its conclusion to the judge.
If you see the individuals acting individually , then you probably treat the collective noun as plural (with plural verbs and plural pronouns), for example:
- The jury have not reached a conclusion because they are still arguing among themselves.
British and American Differences
Note that as a general rule:
- British English tends to treat collective nouns as plural
- American English tends to treat them as singular
So in the example above, American English speakers might use a singular verb with jury and rephrase the rest of the sentence to avoid a logical absurdity:
- The jury has not reached a conclusion because its members are still arguing among themselves.
However, even in American English, it is acceptable to use a plural verb if you really wish to emphasize the individuality of the collective noun members.
- The San Francisco crowd were their usual individualistic selves.
In American English it is also possible to use a plural pronoun with a singular verb, as in:
- The family next door is very quiet. We never hear them.
- The police are coming.
- The police were the first on the scene.
- The police have issued their report.
A Collective Noun Can Itself Be Singular and Plural
In most cases a collective noun can itself be plural. In other words, you can have more than one collective noun. For example, in a game of football there are TWO teams. In a street there are many families. In such cases, a plural verb is automatically used, as in these examples:
- The many ships' crews in port at the time were constantly fighting.
- The two companies have been negotiating for over a week.
Finally, here are some more example sentences...
|collective noun treated as singular||collective noun treated as plural|
|The club was founded in 2003.||The club are currently displaying their best photos.|
|Does Sony make mobile phones?||Do Sony plan to make cars?|
|The board of directors uses this room for its meetings.||The board of directors are eating sandwiches for their lunch.|
|The family next door is very quiet. We never hear them.*||My family are always arguing. The neighbours often hear us.|
|The school reopens in September.||The school are preparing for their winter marathon.|
|CNN does like to blow its own trumpet.||CNN do like to blow their own trumpet.|
*Typically American English usage with a mixture of singular verb and plural pronoun.
sources : Original Link