Sentence Agreement: Collective Nouns

Collective Nouns

Collective nouns are singular in form but plural in sense. Here are some examples of collective nouns:

assembly committeefaculty herd
audience crewfamilyjury
class crowdflockteam

For purposes of agreement, collective nouns can be singular or plural, depending on how they are used in a sentence. Collective nouns used as one unit take a singular verb; collective nouns that indicate many units take a plural verb.

  1. Singular collective nouns
    • Singular collective nouns include molasses (one kind of syrup) and chicken pox (one kind of disease). Other examples include measles, civics, social studies, mumps, news, cast, social studies, economics, and mathematics.
    • The play's cast is rehearsing for today's show.
    • The singular subject cast takes the singular verb is. The members of the cast are functioning as a single unit.
    • The jury returns a unanimous verdict.
    • The singular subject jury requires the singular verb returns; the members of the jury are working together as one unit.
  2. Plural collective nouns
    You Could Look It Up

    A collective noun names a group of people or things. Examples of collective nouns include class, committee, flock, herd, team, audience, assembly, team, club, and so on.

    • A collective noun is treated as plural when the group it names is considered to be made up of individuals. Because members of the group can act on their own, the word is considered plural.
    • The play's cast are rehearsing their lines.
    • The plural subject cast requires the plural verb are because the members of the cast are functioning as individual people doing separate things.
    • The jury often have different reactions to the evidence they hear.
    • The plural subject jury requires the plural verb have because the members of the jury are being considered as individuals.
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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Grammar and Style © 2003 by Laurie E. Rozakis, Ph.D.. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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