One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A count noun that denotes a group of individuals (e.g. assembly, family, crew).
- ‘Some of the questions that the students had to answer were: What is the collective noun of dolphins, the last Ms. World from India, the Roman equivalent of Lord Karthikeya and so on.’
- ‘In American usage, a collective noun takes a singular verb when it refers to the collection considered as a whole, as in The family was united on this question.’
- ‘In the first place, it raises the issue of whether collective nouns like ‘committee’ are singular or plural, from the point of view of verb agreement as well as pronoun choice.’
- ‘I've always thought of elite as a collective noun - when people talk about ‘an elite,’ I assume they're referring to particular group and not simply a person who has elite characteristics.’
- ‘What these two would-be grammar gurus are talking about here is mass nouns, not collective nouns.’
A collective noun can be used with either a singular verb (my family was always hard-working) or a plural verb (his family were disappointed in him). Generally speaking, in Britain it is more usual for collective nouns to be followed by a plural verb, while in the US the opposite is true. Notice that, if the verb is singular, any following pronouns must be too: the government is prepared to act, but not until it knows the outcome of the latest talks (not … until they know the outcome …)
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