Collective Nouns

What are Collective Nouns?

Collective nouns are nouns that refer to groups, collections, or a number of people, things, animals, etc. The words “collection” and “group” are actually collective nouns themselves. Here are some other examples of collective nouns in sentences:

  • Their team qualified for the regional meet next month.
  • The boys were in charge of a large flock of sheep.
  • We will appeal to the committee to employ more civilian guards.

As nouns, those that are collective also possess similar properties. They can be general and as specific as they can get. They include common nouns like “audience“, or proper nouns like “San Antonio Police.”

Collective nouns are plural by meaning. You can’t have a crowd with just one person or a herd with just one cow. Nevertheless, collective nouns are treated as singular units in most cases and therefore must follow certain grammar rules on subject-verb agreement.

Collective Nouns Rules

RulesExplanation and Examples
Plurality of Collective NounsPlural nouns refer to subjects that are more than one in number. To change singular nouns (only one) to plural nouns, we normally add the suffixes –s or –es. For example:

student – students
player – players
witch – witches

Collective nouns are treated as singular, which means they can be plural in the right context following the same rules as other singular nouns. Let’s look at the following sentence:

– We assigned a team to handle the medium-sized packages and the folders.

In this sentence, we can infer that “team” describes a group of workers or volunteers. It is a collective noun. Meanwhile, the nouns “packages” and “folders” are plural. Now let’s read the following sentence:

– We assigned teams to handle medium-sized packages and folders.

In this sentence, the collective noun is in plural form, which refers to more than one team.
Collective Proper Nouns  When collective nouns represent specific groups, they can also be proper nouns. Proper names of entertainment groups such as bands and dance troupes, companies, businesses, sports teams, and so on are often considered collective nouns. For example:

The White Stripes is on the playlist.
– I can believe Cirque de Soleil was performing here last week.
– Did everyone forget that Samsung has been accused of planned obsolescence?
Subject Verb AgreementSingular collective nouns should be treated as singular nouns, and their plural forms should be treated as plural nouns as well. This means subject-verb agreement rules must apply. For example:

Singular Collective Nouns:

– A group of scientists is studying volcanic activity in the forest.
– They think a bunch of lighting schemes is needed for the final segment of the performance.
– The orchestra gathers for a short prayer.

Plural Collective Nouns:

– Several committees were formed under her leadership.
– 12 choirs sing here every Sunday.
– Multiple crews hurry to the far edge of the pier.
Table of Rules for Collective Nouns
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Examples of Collective Nouns

Below is a list of collective nouns in sample sentences, classified by type:

People Collective Nouns

  • There was a formal agreement amongst members of his family.
  • Neglect by the airline company was exposed in the video clips.
  • The faculty wanted to try riding a team of horses.
  • At this point, the Marines are like a litter of dogs.
  • This is a story about a terrifying mob in 15th Century London.

Things Collective Nouns

  • Two sets of agreement errors can be found on the first page.
  • There’s a bunch of grapes on the table. Please help yourself.
  • The company of actors flocked around a stack of costumes.
  • He was flabbergasted by a series of tests about abstract nouns.
  • There was a 16th Century community called the Army of Herring Village.

Animals Collective Nouns

  • My daughter was getting rid of a colony of ants with soda.
  • There’s a hive of bees hidden behind the rafters outside.
  • It’s fun watching a herd of cattle graze in the grasslands.
  • Lindo was startled when a flock of geese rushed towards him.
  • I would be swimming if Matilda hadn’t been attacked by a swarm of eels.

Collective Nouns Exercises with Answers

Exercise on Collective Nouns

Identify the collective noun found in each of the following sentences. Select the correct word from the choices given.

1. The comedians were inspired to perform because of the cheers from the audience.

a. comedians
b. cheers
c. audience

2. Lydia’s sons have decided to join the army after they finish school.

a. sons
b. army
c. school

3. There are still many usable toys in the piles inside the boxes.

a. toys
b. piles
c. boxes

4. Fifty football players in the league signed the petition.

a. teams
b. league
c. petition

5. He told us a pack of wolves was near our tent last night.

a. pack
b. wolves
c. tent

6. Jin gave me a bouquet of various orange flowers on my birthday.

a. bouquet
b. flowers
c. birthday

7. Most of the students in the drama club were talented.

a. students
b. drama
c. club

8. There were seven bands in the lineup for tonight’s show.

a. seven
b. bands
c. line-up

9. Three former cops are the latest additions to the faculty.

a. cops
b. additions
c. faculty

10. There’s a heap of trash in the backyard now.
a. heap
b. trash
c. backyard


1. c: audience

2. b: army

3. b: piles

4. b: league

5. a: pack

6. a: bouquet

7. c: club

8. b: bands

9. c: faculty

10. a: heap

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Collective Nouns List

The following table lists collective nouns according to 3 categories:

Table of Collective Nouns Listed According to Type

Advice for ESL Students & English Language Learners

Nouns are often considered the most prolific part of speech in the English language. They are, after all, the names of everyone and everything in the world. But because of its massive volume, mastering their use can be difficult and overwhelming. Luckily for you, there are a few things that can make language study a bit easier, not just with nouns but with every other grammar concept across the vast landscape of English. Consider the following advice to help you reach your desired level of proficiency.

1. Use Grammar Lists

It can be tedious to use grammar tools such as lists, tables, charts, and diagrams. However, fewer materials can function as well in introducing grammatical concepts. Lists can break down grammar subjects into common patterns, formats, and rules, making them easier to understand. Additionally, they usually include real-world sentence examples that are of great use for vocabulary acquisition and sentence construction. Another great thing about lists is you can make your own and customize them to suit your own preferences in learning.

2. Use Audio-Visual Resources

If you are enrolled in a traditional classroom setup, you’ll soon discover that it isn’t enough without independent learning. Self-study is a necessity for all language learners. But often, because self-study is independent of professional guidance, some students develop unproductive or wrong learning habits. An awesome way to maximize self-directed instruction is by making smart choices, and one of those is to incorporate audio-visual tools in your studies, not only books. With English media resources being so prolific, it’s high time to take advantage. Exposure to audio-visual materials is an educational and entertaining way to absorb how English speakers use the language in various contexts. However, acquiring language skills this way requires intention, which means enjoying content with the purpose of learning in mind. 

3. Practical Use

The saying “theory means nothing without practice” is especially true in language learning. Many students who are good at grammar can barely communicate when talking to a native speaker. In most cases, this is because a great deal of their studies is bound in books and not rooted in actual English interactions. The only substantial way to develop fluency is by talking. Granted that most English students don’t live in places where English is spoken all the time; but in the absence of opportunity, you can make one yourself. You can organize a study group with like-minded people or fellow English students. There are plenty of creative ways to make every meeting engaging and productive: interviews, role-play exercises, games, and so on. Cultivate friendships with native and non-native speakers alike. You won’t only learn language but culture as well.

Additionally, it is important for learners to properly understand compound nouns and mass nouns.

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Common Errors Made by English Learners

Being aware of the typical errors that English learners make with collective nouns can help you avoid making them. Most students have a hard time figuring out if they’re singular or plural, which often leads to messing up the subject-verb agreement of a sentence. It doesn’t help that some rules are ambiguous and largely depend on the context in which the word is used. Collective nouns normally require singular verbs, but there are some situations where plural verbs are a better fit. Let’s consider the following sentences:

  • The screening committee reconvenes to vote on the candidates that passed the interview.
  • The screening committee are checking their notes, tallying points, and discussing their observations.

In the first sentence, the committee acts as one group with a single purpose, and the singular verb “reconvenes” is used. In the second sentence, however, they are acting individually. It’s impossible that all committee members are doing all three things at the same time. In this case, the plural verb “are” is more applicable. These decisions should be made when making similar sentences.

Learning Strategies and Best Practices with Collective Nouns

Here are some things to remember that can provide more insight into learning collective nouns more effectively:

Best PracticesExplanation
Learn Pronoun agreementSince collective nouns represent single units, we use the singular pronoun “it.” Only when the collective noun is used in its plural form do we use a plural pronoun. For example: 

Incorrect: The flock of birds cawed loudly as they flew on the horizon. 

Correct: The flock of birds cawed loudly as it flew on the horizon.

Correct: The flocks of birds cawed loudly as they flew on the horizon.
Replace collective nouns with members of the groups they signifyLet’s consider the following sentence:

– Keiran hired a team to beautify the garden.

What kind of team do you think Keiran hired? Obviously, it would be a team of professionals that can make a garden beautiful. Landscape artists, for example.

You don’t need to use a collective town. Instead, you could find the right word that represents the members of a collective noun and use it. The sentence could then be written as:

– Keiran hired landscape artists to beautify the garden.
Study the nuances of American and British English American English defaults to singular when dealing with collective nouns. Meanwhile, British English treat them as plural.

– The club has not decided yet where to hold its first-anniversary meetup.

The sentence is more likely to be used in American English. On the other hand, British English would take the plural form approach:

– The club have not decided yet where to hold their first-anniversary meetup.

American English can use plural verbs when they highlight the individual members of a group. For example:

– The team were doing their own thing.
Collective Nouns Learning Strategies Table
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Collective Nouns Frequently Asked Questions

Yes. This will depend on which tense you use. Has and have are auxiliary verbs in perfect tenses. If the collective noun is singular, we have to use “has” and use “have” if the collective noun is in its plural form. For example:

– The crew has gone to headquarters to settle some issues.
– The crews (meaning many different crews) have gone to headquarters to settle some issues.

There are several words that can be used as collective nouns for eagles. The generic flock and nest can be used as they are applicable to all kinds of birds. But the word aerie, which is what an eagle’s nest is called, can be used. “An aerie of eagles.” The word convocation is the preferred word for creative writers.

In American English, the word “set” is commonly used to refer to furniture. You can say “a set of furniture” or “a dining set.” In British English, the word “suite” is more common, as in “a bedroom suite.”

It can be. It’s a collective noun in the sentence “Thai food uses a lot of spices.” In other sentences, it may function as concrete or abstract nouns. Concrete nouns are nouns that you can physically sense, as in “Eat your food.” Abstract nouns are ideas, like in the idiom “food for thought.” 

Mass nouns (also non-count or uncountable nouns) are things that you can’t count or measure such as furniture, salt, sand, water, rice, sugar, coffee, and so on. Collective nouns pertain to groups. Mass nouns have no plural forms and always use singular verbs. Collective nouns can be singular or plural.

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