A collective noun is a type of noun used to refer to a group or collective of animals, people, or things. Collective nouns are treated as grammatically singular, even though they refer to a group.
Collective nouns include both common nouns (such as “family”) and proper nouns, like “Apple” or “QuillBot.”
Collective noun examples The herd of elephants lumbered gracefully through the savanna.
Our team is working diligently to complete the project ahead of schedule.
The jury delivered a unanimous verdict in the courtroom.
Collective nouns are usually treated as singular, even though they’re semantically plural. This means they’re generally used with singular verb forms (e.g., “is” instead of “are”), but the usage differs between US and UK English.
In UK English, both singular and plural are acceptable, depending on the context.
In US English, collective nouns are treated as singular, no matter the context.
UK English: Varies depending on context
In UK English, both forms are used. The plural form is commonly used when the emphasis is placed on individual group members acting independently, or when the noun looks like a plural noun (e.g., “Red Hot Chili Peppers”).
However, it’s good practice to be consistent about how you treat collective nouns, even in UK English. This means that you shouldn’t use a word like “band” as a singular noun in some sentences and plural in others.
Collective noun examples in UK English The local orchestra are performing a beautiful symphony.
The committee are discussing the upcoming charity event.
The fleet of ships are setting sail for the distant horizon at dawn.
US English: Always singular
In US English, all collective verbs are treated as singular. Using a plural verb form with a collective noun is considered incorrect. In practice, people sometimes use a plural verb form, but this is not in line with most American style guides.
It is advised to use a singular verb form in formal or academic writing, even when the noun looks like a plural noun (e.g., a band name like “The Rolling Stones”).
Collective noun examples in US English The pack of wolves is howling beneath the full moon.
The staff at the hospital is working tirelessly.
The choir is singing harmoniously.
Collective nouns for animals
Type of animal
Baby animals (e.g., chicks)
Social animals that often collaborate (e.g., ants or beavers)
Animals with a leader (e.g., sheep) or animals that move in a formation (e.g., some birds)
Animals kept by farmers (e.g., cows) or wild animals that gather in groups
Animals that hunt as a group, whether wild or trained (e.g., dogs or wolves)
Bees, flies, and other insects
Collective nouns for animals can also be used figuratively for humans, usually with a negative connotation. For example, you can refer to a group of people as a “herd” if you want to express that they mindlessly follow trends or leaders.
Examples of collective nouns
People and things
brood (of chicks)
the American Psychological Association
flock (of sheep)
The Bee Gees
gaggle (of geese)
Chicago University Press
herd (of cows)
murder (of crows)
murmuration (of starlings)
pack (of wolves)
the New York Jets
plague (of locusts)
pride (of lions)
the United States Congress
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What’s the difference between common and proper nouns?
Proper nouns refer to specific people, places, and things (e.g., “Candice,” “Amsterdam,” and “Nintendo Switch”). They are capitalized and often don’t go with an article or other determiner.
Common nouns are used to describe types of people, places, and things (e.g., “teacher,” “village,” and “cat”). They’re not capitalized unless they are at the beginning of a sentence and they’re often used with articles or other determiners.