Collective Noun

How to Use Collective Nouns in Academic Writing

A collective noun is a naming word that names a group or collection of persons, animals, or things as a complete whole.

The boldfaced words in the sentences below are collective nouns:

Rules & Examples for Correct Uses

In cases where the collective noun concerned is understood to refer to a class of things of a certain kind, rather than to a grouping of one particular thing, the general rule is the noun always takes a singular verb (verbs with –s ending), as shown in 6):

However, where a collective noun refers to people in general, or to a broader group of people, it is generally treated as plural and takes a plural verb, as 7) illustrates.

Although, in other cases, it is not always clear which should be applied, and it is often up to the writer to decide which choice to make, since either form is acceptable:

The use of a singular verb underlines the unity of a group as a single entity, while the choice of a plural verb emphasizes its composition of many individuals.

Whichever choice is made, it is important that it is reflected in associated words or phrases in the same sentence, as shown in 10) and 11).

Consistency, it is worthy to note, is an essential factor in these cases.

It will be incorrect to treat a collective noun as plural and yet attach a singular possessive pronoun, and vice versa.

Compare examples 12) and 13).

Likewise, where a collective noun is in the singular, its singular state should also be reflected in any attached adjectives, even though the accompanying verb may be plural, as is the case in 15).

And where the collective noun become plural, any attached adjectives become plural in the same way, as is in 16).

Important Hint  

Note that some collective nouns are uncountable and cannot be pluralized, as is the case with the names of corporations, organizations and commercial institutions (as in the FBI).

The following list includes some of the more familiar collective nouns, as well as some of the less widely known.

IndividualsCollective Noun(s)IndividualsCollective Noun(s)
actorscast/company/troupeairplanesflight/squadron
angelshostassespace
antelopesherdarrowssheaf
badgerscetebearssloth
beaverscolonybirdsflock/flight
beesswarmbellspeal
bishopsbenchboarssingular
breadbatchbuffaloesherd
bowlssetcamelscaravan
cardsdeck/packcarsfleet
chickensbroodchoughschattering
cattledrove/herdcootscovert
cormorantsflightcranesherd/sedge/siege
crowsmurdercubslitter
crocodilesbaskdancerstroupe
deerherddogspack
duckspaddling/teameaglesconvocation
dolphinsschoolexpertspanel
eggsclutchelephantsparade
elksgangferretsbusiness
finchescharmfliesswarm
fishesshoalflowersbouquet/bunch/posy
foxesskulkfrogsarmy
geesegaggle/skeingoatstribe
golf clubssetgrapesbunch/cluster
guillemotsbazaargullscolony
grasshopperscloudhareshusk
hawkscasthensbrood
herringsglean/shoalhorsesstring
heronssiegehoundspack
insectsswarmkangaroostroop
laborersganglarksexaltation
kittenskindleleopardsleap
lionspridelocustsplaque
magpiestitteringminstrelstroupe
magistratesbenchmonkeystroop
musiciansband/orchestranightingaleswatch
ottersfamilyowlsparliament
onionsropeoxendrove/herd/team/yoke
parrotspandemoniumpartridgescovey
pearlsrope/stringpenguinsrookery
peacocksmusterpheasantsnye
pigslitterploverscongregation
pupslitterquailsbevy
porpoisesschoolrabbitsbury/nest
ragsbundleratscolony
rhinocerosescrashrooksbuilding/clamor
ravensunkindnessrunnersfield
sailorscrewsailssuit
sheepflockshipsfleet/flotilla/squadron
sealsherd/podsoldiersarmy
sparrowshostsquirrelsdray
starscluster/constellationstepsflight
starlingsmurmurationswallowsflight
swiftsflockthrushesmutation
toadsknottreesclump
tigersambushturkeysrafter
whalesgam/pod/schoolwolvespack/rout
woodpeckersdescentworshipperscongregation
woodcocksfallzebraszeal