Collective Nouns are used to represent a group of something. Let’s take an example,
“I saw a flock of birds at the lake, yesterday.” Flock is a collective noun that, in this context, refers to a group of birds.
Meaning of Collective Nouns
Collective nouns are words or phrases that refer to a group of people, animals or things. Most people are confused about whether they are used as singular or plurals.
“Jack witnessed a pride of lions at the sanctuary.” There cannot be a pride with just one lion.
Look at this sentence – “There are a pride of lions at the sanctuary.” This sentence is grammatically incorrect. Here’s why –
Collective nouns represent a group of something, so most people use the plural verb form with them. This is incorrect. These nouns represent many things as a single entity.
So ‘a pride of lions’ is actually representing ‘one’ group of lions. Therefore, the singular form of verb is used.
The correct sentence will be – “There is a pride of lions at the sanctuary.”
Additional tips –
- When the unit is acting in unison, it is appropriate to use the singular form.
- When the members of the unit are acting as individuals, it is appropriate to use plural forms of verbs and pronouns.
Common Collective Nouns
Here is a list of common collective nouns (in bold):
- Band of musicians
- Class of students
- Gang of thieves
- Bouquet of flowers
- Bucket of water
- Team of players
- Packet of salt
- Board of directors
- Crew of sailors
- Loaf of bread
Collective Nouns for Animal Groups
There is a unique set of nouns that are used specifically for animal groups. Here is a list of the most common ones (in bold):
- Colony of ants
- Herd of elephants
- Pride of lions
- Pack of wolves
- Litter of puppies
- School of fish
- Herd of sheep
- Clutter of cats
- Kindle of kittens
- Swarm of locusts
- Tower of giraffes
- Army of frogs
- School of dolphins
- Troop of monkeys
- Brood of snakes
- Nest of crocodiles
- Murder of crows
- Kennel of dogs
- Business of ferrets
- Gaggle of geese
Note that some collective nouns for animal groups actually describe the traits of the animals.
Example – ‘Leap of leopards’ leap describes the tendency of leopards to take high jumps or leaps.
Giraffes are the tallest animals on planet Earth. A tower also refers to something that’s unusually tall. Thus ‘tower’ is the collective noun for giraffes.
Nouns is a vast and one of the most important topics in English grammar. Collective nouns are a small part of nouns. You can read more about nouns here.
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