Collective nouns in English

Collective nouns denote a group of persons, family, team, etc. They always occur in the singular form (staff, crew) except for folk, committee, which are also used in the plural: folks, committees.

1. Some collective nouns are followed either by a singular verb (when they refer to a whole group) or by a plural verb (when they refer to individual members of the group):
e.g. clergy, gentry
The clergy constitutes a social group.
Fifty of the clergy were present at the meeting.

2. Some collective nouns always take a plural verb: e.g. cattle, police
The police have found the wanted murderer.
Reference to individual members of the group is made by:
e.g. ten head of cattle or five police (policemen).

Examples of collective nouns. In English there is a group of nouns which despite their singular form they stand for collection. Below you can find a list of examples of such nouns.

  • crowd
  • crew
  • family
  • jury
  • flock
  • team

These nouns can be used with verbs in plural and singular. In the last case we refer to the collection as a whole.

My family consists of 5 people.
My family are always quarrelling with one another.

The crew of this ship is too numerous.
The crew were all wondering about the deck.

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