collective noun is a word that is used to refer to a number of people, animals, or things that we group together and speak of as a whole. Some examples: a bunch of bananasa herd of water buffaloes (plural of buffalo can also be buffalo), a litter of puppiesa flock of sheep, and a package of cookies

 

The use of a collective noun in a sentence can cause difficulty as to whether it takes a singular or plural verb. It depends on how the collective noun is to be expressed – as a group performing together or individually. If members of the group are viewed as a single unit acting together, a singular verb is used. If they are regarded as separate members acting individually, a plural verb is used. 

 

Examples:

  • Our team has won its first trophy. (The singular possessive pronoun is its, and it agrees with the singular collective noun team.)
  • Our team are deciding on the strategy for their next game. (Plural possessive pronoun their agrees with the plural collective noun team.) 
  • The full orchestra led by its new conductor is performing in the city.
  • The orchestra do not agree to the venue for their next performance.
  • The audience showed its approval by clapping and cheering.
  • When the curtain came down, the audience began leaving their seats.

 

 

Examples:

  • The family is planning an overseas trip.

    (The family is viewed as a single group planning for an overseas trip together, so it takes a singular verb.) 

     

  • The family are discussing about the plan.

    (Members of the family are looked at separately, taking part in the discussion and are not acting as a group,so a plural verb is used.)    

 

 

Singular and plural collective nouns
Following are examples of collective nouns being used as singular and plural nouns.  
 

Examples:

  • The explorers stumbled across a species of plant unknown to science.
  • Different fish species have been found in the coastal waters of the island.Different fish species have been found in the coastal waters of the island.
  • Data indicates that most of the offenders come from broken home.
  • We will not draw any conclusion until we have looked at all the data.We will not draw any conclusion until we have looked at all the data.
  • Statistics is included in this year's Mathematics syllabus.
  • The statistics tell us the current trend is towards more consumers' spending.
  • The enemy is calling for a ceasefire. 
  • The enemy were advised to surrender. (The plural of enemy is enemies. But enemy, although a singular noun, can take a plural verb such as were when it is regarded as a group of enemies.) 
  • Your puppy is sleeping underneath my car. (Preposition)
  • His left eye was swollen with a bruise underneath. (Adverb)
 
 
 
More examples
Usually, the collective noun takes a singular verb as it is looked at as a single unit. But if the emphasis is on the individual parts, the collective noun is treated as a plural and a plural verb is used.
 
 

Examples:

  • The team is in the bus heading for the stadium.
  • The team are discussing about their next opponent.  
  • The jury has retired to consider its verdict.
  • The jury were unanimous in their verdict.  
  • The public has the right to know how the investigation is going.
  • The public are calling for the bomber to be hanged or face life imprisonment.

     

    If you are uncertain about whether a singular or plural verb should be used, you can rewrite as the following.  
  • The team members are discussing about their opponent.
  • Members of the jury/The jury members were unanimous in their verdict.
  • Members of the public are calling for the bomber to be hanged or face life imprisonment.  
 
 
 

Collective noun must use correct pronoun

A collective noun treated as singular must use a singular possessive pronoun. Likewise, a plural collective noun takes a plural possessive pronoun.

 

Examples:

  • Our team has won its first trophy. (The singular possessive pronoun is its, and it agrees with the singular collective noun team.)
  • Our team are deciding on the strategy for their next game. (Plural possessive pronoun their agrees with the plural collective noun team.) 
  • The full orchestra led by its new conductor is performing in the city.
  • The orchestra do not agree to the venue for their next performance.
  • The audience showed its approval by clapping and cheering.
  • When the curtain came down, the audience began leaving their seats.

 

 

Composite subject takes a singular verb

for no man.subjects can be so closely linked that they form a composite subject and expresses a single idea. A composite subject takes a singular verb.

 

Examples:

  • Time and tide waits for no man. 
  • Bread and jam is what he eats most in the morning.
  • Bread and breakfast is what we will look for when we arrive there.
  • Spaghetti and meatballs is my favourite dish.

     

 

 

(A list of collective nouns can be found on List 3)