Posted by: episystechpubs | July 30, 2014

Editor’s Corner: Collective nouns, revisited

Good morning! Today we’re going to talk a little bit about collective nouns. This may sound familiar because we’ve discussed them before. Collective nouns refer to a group of people, animals, objects, or ideas as a single thing. What do I mean? For example, a collective noun for mom, dad, Billy, Buffy, and Skip the dog is “family”; a group of lions is a “pride.” Collective nouns take the individual members and wrap them up in a singular term.

Today’s question is: Do I use a singular verb or a plural verb with collective nouns?

Today’s answer is: This is English; it’s not that simple.

Collective nouns can be used as a singular or plural term; it depends on how the term is being used in the sentence.

· Tip #1: Try to figure out if the collective noun is referring to a group of individuals working separately, or a group of individuals working together as a single entity.

o Example of a group of individuals working separately: The class (they, plural) decided to stay outside longer and enjoy their (plural) lunches (plural).

o Example of a group of individuals working together as a single entity: The class (it, singular) voted to extend its (singular) school year.

· Tip #2: If it’s too hard to make a decision on singular or plural, precede your collective noun with words like “members of” which force you to use the plural form of the verb.

o Example: Members of the class (they, plural) sang as they (plural) walked across campus.

For elaboration on this topic, here is an example from

Nouns such as committee, family, government, jury, and squad take a singular verb or pronoun when thought of as a single unit, but a plural verb or pronoun when thought of as a collection of individuals:

o The committee gave its unanimous approval to the plans.

o The committee enjoyed biscuits with their tea.

And here are some Editor’s Corner topics on the collective nouns themselves:



NOTICE: This electronic mail message and any files transmitted with it are intended
exclusively for the individual or entity to which it is addressed. The message,
together with any attachment, may contain confidential and/or privileged information.
Any unauthorized review, use, printing, saving, copying, disclosure or distribution
is strictly prohibited. If you have received this message in error, please
immediately advise the sender by reply email and delete all copies.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: