collective noun


collective noun
collective noun
1. A collective noun is one that is singular in form and denotes a number of individuals, for example audience, choir, committee, flock, multitude. Apart from the names of individual animals, birds, etc. (deer, grouse, sheep, trout) and names for groups of them (a pride of lions, a gaggle of geese, etc.), and names of institutions, firms, and teams (CNN, Ernst and Young, Real Madrid, etc.), there are some 200 collective nouns in common use in English.
2. The principal question of usage with collective nouns is whether they should be treated as singular or plural. In BrE, the practice is well established of construing them either with a singular verb to emphasize unity or with a plural verb to emphasize individuality. The point is more fully discussed at agreement 3. It is particularly important to maintain consistency within a statement, avoiding, for example, a singular verb with a plural pronoun following, as in ☒ A family displaced by fighting prepares [singular] to return to their [plural]

• village —Independent, 2006.

3. When a collective noun is followed by of + plural noun or pronoun (as in a number of people), there is a general preference for a plural construction:

• A large number of conductors want to hear the great artists —Dædalus, 1986

• A handful of their members have been agents of Moscow —London Review of Books, 1987

but again a singular is used when collectivity rather than individuality is the main point:

• A decade ago there was only a handful of bioethicists in the country —British Medical Journal, 1978.

See also number of.
4. Names of institutions and political entities, e.g. the United States, the United Nations, the Vatican, the Commons, Congress, are always treated as singular whether the form of the name is singular or plural (e.g.

• The United States has demanded a more open Japan —Dædalus, 1987

• The CEGB finds it 25 per cent cheaper to buy in French electricity —Daily Telegraph, 1987).

5. Names of animals, birds, and fish that are the same in the singular and plural are treated as singular or plural (or as a singular mass noun) accordingly: Five bison were grazing in a shaded part of the valley / Trout will for some time still be a premium fish, selling at about £1 each.
6. For collective nouns of the type a pride of lions etc., see proper terms.

Modern English usage. 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • collective noun — noun Grammar a count noun that denotes a group of individuals (e.g. assembly, family, crew). Usage A collective noun can be used with either a singular verb (my family was always hard working) or a plural verb (his family were disappointed in… …   English new terms dictionary

  • collective noun — collective nouns N COUNT A collective noun is a noun such as family or team that refers to a group of people or things …   English dictionary

  • collective noun — noun a noun that is singular in form but refers to a group of people or things • Hypernyms: ↑noun * * * noun, pl ⋯ nouns [count] technical : a word (such as family or herd) that names a group of people or things * * * colˌlective ˈnoun… …   Useful english dictionary

  • collective noun — ► NOUN ▪ a noun that denotes a group of individuals (e.g. assembly, family) …   English terms dictionary

  • Collective noun — In linguistics, a collective noun is a word used to define a group of objects, where objects can be people, animals, emotions, inanimate things, concepts, or other things. For example, in the phrase a pride of lions , pride is a collective noun.… …   Wikipedia

  • collective noun — Gram. a noun, as herd, jury, or clergy, that appears singular in formal shape but denotes a group of persons or objects. [1510 20] Usage. Whether a COLLECTIVE NOUN, which is singular in form, is used with a singular or plural verb depends on… …   Universalium

  • collective noun — collec′tive noun′ n. gram. use a noun, as herd, jury, or clergy, that appears singular in formal shape but denotes a group of individuals or objects • Etymology: 1510–20 usage: Whether a collective noun will be used with a singular or plural verb …   From formal English to slang

  • collective noun — UK / US noun [countable] Word forms collective noun : singular collective noun plural collective nouns linguistics a noun that refers to a group of people and is followed by a singular or plural verb, for example team or family …   English dictionary

  • collective noun — noun A noun which, though singular, refers to a group of things or animals. Examples: a school of fish, a pride of lions. Syn: noun of assemblage, noun of multitude …   Wiktionary

  • collective noun — noun (C) technical a noun, such as committee or family , that is the name of people or things considered as a unit …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English


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