What Are Collective Nouns? (with Examples)
What Are Collective Nouns? (with Examples)A collective noun is the word used to represent a group of people, animals, or things.
Examples of Collective NounsHere are some examples of collective nouns:
Click on the Two Collective Nouns
There are lots of collective nouns. Below are some examples of the most common ones.
Common Collective Nouns Used for PeopleHere are some examples of common collective nouns used for people:
- A band of musicians
- A board of directors
- A choir of singers
- A class of students
- A crowd of people
- A gang of thieves
- A pack of thieves
- A panel of experts
- A team of players
- A troupe of dancers
Common Collective Nouns Used for AnimalsHere are some examples of common collective nouns used for animals:
- An army of ants
- A flock of birds
- A flock of sheep
- A herd of deer
- A hive of bees
- A litter of puppies
- A murder of crows
- A pack of hounds
- A pack of wolves
- A school of fish
- A swarm of locusts
- A team of horses
- A pride of lions
Common Collective Nouns Used for ThingsHere are some examples of common collective nouns used for things:
- A bouquet of flowers
- A bunch of flowers
- A fleet of ships
- A forest of trees
- A galaxy of stars
- A pack of cards
- A pack of lies
- A pair of shoes
- A range of mountains
- A wad of notes
A Video SummaryHere is a 4-minute video summarizing this lesson about collective nouns.
Versatile Collective NounsSome collective nouns are quite versatile.
- a pack of thieves
- a pack of wolves
- a pack of cards
- a pack of lies
Why Should I Care about Collective Nouns?By far the most common question about collective nouns is whether to treat them as singular or plural. In other words, should you write the group is or the group are? Well, both can be right. You should treat a collective noun (shaded in the examples below) as singular or plural depending on the sense of your sentence.
- The shoal was moving north.
- The shoal were darting in all directions. (In the first sentence, the shoal is considered as one unit. Therefore, shoal is treated as singular. However, in the second example, the shoal is considered as lots of individuals, and shoal is treated as plural.)
- The audience is happy.
- The audience are all wearing comedy wigs. (In the first sentence audience is singular. In the second, it's plural.)
- There is always an incredible crowd that follows me. In Rome, even the men kiss me. (Boxer Muhammad Ali)
- I have played some of my best tennis away from home, but it can be tough when the crowd are spitting on you. (Australian tennis player Lleyton Hewitt) (In the first sentence, crowd is singular. In the second, it's plural. Lleyton Hewitt would have instinctively chosen crowd are over crowd is because not all the individuals in the crowd would have been spitting at him, compelling him to think of the crowd as lots of individuals.)
- The members of the audience are happy.
- The members of the audience are all wearing comedy wigs. (There is no longer a decision to make. The phrase members of the audience is plural.)
- The group is happy with their performance. [not technically wrong but a bit scruffy] (is = singular / their = plural)
- The group is happy with its performance. [much tidier] (is = singular / its = singular)
- a bouquet of wolves
- a swarm of lions
- a litter of ships
- a pack of ships (This gives the idea of ships hunting likes wolves or thieves. It brings pirates to mind.)
- a forest of soldiers (This gives the idea of thousands of stationary soldiers standing shoulder to shoulder.)
- A flock of men is more easily driven than a single one. (Economist Richard Whately)