Collective Nouns and Their Use Explained

Typically, words that identify more than one person, place or thing have to be made plural in the English language, but that is not always the case. Collective nouns are a key exception. Find out what collective nouns are and review a number of examples.

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What Is a Collective Noun?

Collective nouns are words that name a group or collection of people or things in a way that the group is discussed as a single entity. Basically, a collective noun is a group noun that refers to units or groups in a collective sense.

Team as a Collective Noun (With Sentences)

For example, the word team is a collective noun. There are multiple individual players on a team, but when discussing something that happens to the team as a whole, the team would be referred to as a single thing.

  • The team will travel to the game. (singular collective noun)
  • Both teams will stay in the same hotel. (plural collective noun)

Parts Within a Collective Noun (With Sentences)

When individuals within a collective noun act individually (not as a unit), you would need to add or replace words to create references to the individuals.

  • A few team members will stay at home.
  • One player will stay with a local family member.

Common Collective Nouns for People

The word team is just one of the many examples of collective nouns for people who are in a group and acting as a single entity.

  • audience of many
  • band of brothers
  • board of directors
  • cast of clowns
  • choir of singers
  • class of students
  • committee of experts
  • company of dancers
  • crowd of fans
  • department of human resources
  • faculty of Penn State
  • family of relatives
  • firm of lawyers
  • gang of bandits
  • group of fans
  • jury of peers
  • party of two
  • senate of the United States
  • society of people
  • staff of Dunder Mifflin

List of Collective Nouns for Animal Groups

Next, there are unique collective nouns to identify a specific group of animals, be they mammals, birds or insects. Common collective nouns for animal groups include:

  • brood of chickens
  • clutch of rabbits
  • colony of ants
  • drove of horses
  • flight of doves
  • flock of ducks
  • gaggle of geese
  • herd of elephants
  • hive of bees
  • litter of puppies
  • nest of robins
  • pack of wolves
  • plague of locusts
  • pride of lions
  • school of fish
  • skein of swans
  • swarm of wasps
  • team of vipers
  • tribe of goats
  • troop of chimpanzees
  • yoke of oxen

More Collective Noun Examples

Collective nouns don’t all refer to groups of people or animals. Groups of other things can also be referred to as a unit.

  • array of magazines
  • batch of DVDs
  • bucket of water
  • bowl of cereal
  • box of chocolate
  • bevy of options
  • bunch of flowers
  • case of soda
  • cup of tea
  • deck of cards
  • galaxy of stars
  • gear for camping
  • harvest of vegetables
  • packet of salt
  • pile of garbage
  • portfolio of investments
  • pot of stew
  • string of pearls
  • tub of water
  • vault of money

Singular vs. Plural Collective Nouns

Nouns in the collective class can be used in either the singular or plural form, depending on the context of the sentence.

  • Family is a collective noun because it refers to more than one person sharing a relationship.
  • You can also use this collective noun in its plural form, families, to refer more than one family.

Using Collective Nouns Correctly in Sentences

Using collective nouns in sentences can be confusing because it's sometimes difficult to discern whether to use plural or singular verbs and pronouns with them. It’s necessary to identify whether the collective noun refers to the group working in unison as a unit, or to members of the group acting on their own.

When to Use Singular Verbs and Pronouns

When the unit is acting in unison, it is appropriate to use the singular form of verbs and pronouns. For example:

The class (collective noun) waits (singular verb) for its (singular pronoun) teacher quietly.

Here, the class is referred to as a unit acting in unison; the students are all doing the same thing at the same time.


When to Use Plural Verbs and Pronouns

When the members of the unit are acting as individuals, it is appropriate to use plural forms of verbs and pronouns. For example:

The class (collective noun) members (added for clarity) began their (plural verb and pronoun) homework assignments while waiting for their (plural pronoun) teacher.

The class of students is a unit, but the students are acting as individuals. Each student is doing his or her own homework assignment.

The Collective Whole: Building Noun Knowledge

Gradual shifts in the ways words are used have contributed to the formation of this special class of nouns. Now that you’re familiar with many collective nouns and how to use them, review these collective noun worksheet activities to practice and reinforce what you have learned. Consider expanding your overall knowledge of nouns by exploring the various types of nouns.