Collective Noun

A collective noun is a type of noun (identifying word) used to show a group of people, animals, or objects. Some collective nouns are general and can refer to many things, such as ‘group’, but also some with specific uses. For instance, ‘flock’ refers to a group of birds.

What is a Collective Noun?

For starters, what is a collective noun?

When we think of the word ‘collective’, we think of more than one thing or person. Therefore, a collective noun must be a noun that is used to represent a group of people, animals, or objects!

They are sometimes called grouped nouns, representing a number or a collection of things. Common examples of collective nouns are ” government, ” “family,” and ” team.”

Collective nouns are typically plural but can also be singular in some cases. An example is ‘family’, which can be described individually or collectively as one unit.

Collective nouns can also vary depending on whether British English or American English is used. For instance, the word ‘government’ is treated as singular in American English but as plural in British English!

What are some examples of collective nouns?

Now that we’ve answered the question of ‘what is a collective noun?’, let’s expand our knowledge with a few examples. Read on to find practical examples of collective nouns that express groups of animals, people, or even things.

1) Collective nouns for animals:

You’ve probably heard collective nouns used to describe animals, like a pack of wolves or a herd of sheep. You might not know that most leading animal groups have collective nouns, and some of them can be pretty bizarre. Here are a few of our favorites:

Singular Collective
Dolphin A pod
Bat A colony
Elephant A parade
Duck A brace
Hippos A bloat
Leopard A leap
Otter A raft
Pig A drove
Frog An army
Lemur A conspiracy
Kangaroos A mob
Ravens An unkindness
Shark A shiver

Top of Form
We need to note that, in many cases, people might not be familiar with some of these fun but very specific collective nouns. In this case, they might indicate a group of animals using more general collective nouns like ‘group’.

2) Collective nouns for people:

We know the answer to ‘what is a collective noun?’, but what are some nouns that we can use to refer to organizations or groups of people? Here are a few examples:

  • Team
  • Group
  • Collective
  • Crowd
  • Squad
  • Posse
  • Cohort

You might challenge your pupils to see if they can add a collective noun to this list.

3) Collective nouns for objects:

Finally, there are also some collective nouns that we can use to refer to things or inanimate objects. Here are a few examples of them:

Singular Collective
Shoe Pair
Hay Bale
Banana Bunch
Stick Bundle
Island Chain
Ship Fleet
Apartment Block
Tool Set

How do you use collective nouns in a sentence?

We’ve learned ‘what is a collective noun?’ and seen some examples, but how do you use them? Here are some tips on how you and your learners could incorporate these nouns into your writing:

  • Singular and plural:

It can be tricky to know whether a collective noun should be treated as singular or plural. Generally, collective nouns are treated as singular, but there might be instances where we want to refer to them as plural. Here are some examples:

The team was in high spirits after winning the game.

The crew was all working at their stations.

In this second example, the ‘crew’ is treated as plural. Despite being a group of people, we can assume that it’s made up of individuals with their jobs to do. In this case, it is acceptable to refer to the collective noun as plural.

  • Avoid using the incorrect collective nouns:

Using an inappropriate collective noun is an easy trap to fall into, but it can affect how our writing looks to the reader. Here are some examples:

A flock of wolves.

A punnet of screwdrivers.

  • Experiment with collective nouns:

At the same time, don’t be afraid to experiment and try our collective nouns in places they might not usually go. Sometimes, an unexpected use of a collective noun can add unique meaning to a sentence.

For instance, the correct collective noun for piranhas is shoal. However, saying ‘a swarm of deadly piranhas’ still makes sense and can have a powerful impact on your writing.

Choose your Reaction!