One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A noun that denotes a group of individuals (e.g., assembly, family, crew).
- ‘What these two would-be grammar gurus are talking about here is mass nouns, not collective nouns.’
- ‘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.’
- ‘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.’
- ‘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.’
Examples of collective nouns include group, crowd, family, committee, class, crew, and the like. In the US, collective nouns are usually followed by a singular verb (the crowd was nervous), while in Britain it is more common to follow a collective noun with a plural verb (the band were late for their own concert). Notice that if the verb is singular, any following pronouns must also be singular: the council is prepared to act, but not until it has taken a poll. When preceded by the definite article the, the collective noun number is usually treated as a singular (the number of applicants was beyond belief), whereas it is treated as a plural when preceded by the indefinite article a (a number of proposals were considered). See also number
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