Collective nouns: Seven points of usage

What are collective nouns? Collective nouns are nouns that look singular but that represent a group of individuals or objects. Common examples include: Audience, class, committee, company, contents, couple, faculty, family, flock, group, jury, majority, minority, number, organization, pair, people, press, public, range, series, society, staff, team, variety. Are collective nouns singular or plural? A collective noun can refer to the group as a unit (acting in unison) or to its individual parts (acting separately). Use singular verbs and pronouns when referring to the unit, and use plural verbs and pronouns when referring to the individual parts. Here are some examples (collective nouns are underlined; verbs and pronouns are in bold): Plural Verb Singular Verb A number of new genes were sequenced. (Number refers to multiple individual genes.) The number of new genes that was sequenced was astounding. (Number refers to the group of genes as a single entity.) Some of the class were celebrating because the professor offered a make-up exam. (Here, the emphasis is on distinct class members.) The class was celebrating because the professor offered a make-up exam. (Class refers to the group as a single unit.) Some of the audience were agitated by the length of the lecture. The audience was unanimous in its approval. The team were in disagreement about how to interpret their results. (Team refers to the individuals, who disagree.) That team was awarded the grant. (Team refers to the group as a unit.)   Tip for avoiding awkward writing Collective nouns used in …

Anne AltorCollective nouns: Seven points of usage