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Collective Nouns- What are they and How to Use them?

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. 

Collective Nouns- What are they and How to Use them? | English Medium

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 – 

  1. When the unit is acting in unison, it is appropriate to use the singular form.
  2. 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):

  1. Band of musicians 
  2. Class of students
  3. Gang of thieves 
  4. Bouquet of flowers
  5. Bucket of water
  6. Team of players
  7. Packet of salt
  8. Board of directors
  9. Crew of sailors
  10. 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):

  1. Colony of ants
  2. Herd of elephants
  3. Pride of lions
  4. Pack of wolves
  5. Litter of puppies
  6. School of fish
  7. Herd of sheep
  8. Clutter of cats
  9. Kindle of kittens
  10. Swarm of locusts
  11. Tower of giraffes
  12. Army of frogs
  13. School of dolphins
  14. Troop of monkeys
  15. Brood of snakes
  16. Nest of crocodiles
  17. Murder of crows
  18. Kennel of dogs
  19. Business of ferrets
  20. 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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