Grammar Basics: Collective Nouns

Noun forms an essential part of speech in English Grammar. One of the most common types of noun is a collective noun.
What is a Collective Noun?
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Collective nouns are used to refer to a group or collection spoken of as one whole. In other words, one name is given to such a group made of similar things/animals/persons.

Examples of Collective Nouns:
  1. The French army was defeated at Waterloo.
  2. The police dispersed the crowd.
  3. A herd of cattle is passing.
  4. The jury found the prisoner guilty.
In the above examples, words like army, crowd, herd and jury refer to a particular group. Other such collective nouns are: mob, team, fleet, family, flock, nation, committee, parliament, etc. Further, different categories of living things are denoted by a number of collective nouns: People: a faculty of academics, a babble of barbers, a bench of bishops, a shuffle of bureaucrats, a conjunction of grammarians, a worship of writers, etc.
Fish: a flock of dolphins, a hover of trout, a swarm of eels, a shiver of sharks, a troop of dogfish, etc.
Insects: an intrusion of cockroaches, a plague of locusts, a clutter of spiders, a flight of butterflies, etc.
Reptiles: a quiver of cobras, a bask of crocodiles, a nest of vipers, etc.
Birds: a murder of crows, a wake of buzzards, a parliament of owls, a run of poultry, a descent of woodpeckers, etc.
Collective Nouns: Singular & Plural form
While the living entities take singular or plural form of verb according to their usage in the sentence, the non-living things always take the singular form of verb. When a collective noun uses a plural verb, it is called the noun of multitude. Additionally, some of the collective nouns, though singular in form, are always used as plurals. Examples:
  1. The committee consists of five members.
  2. The committee quarrel among themselves.
  3. These poultry are mine.
  4. Whose are these cattle?
  5. Who are those people?
  6. There are few gentry in this town.
  7. Vermin destroy our property.
In the examples 1 and 2, the form of verb varies according to the usage. Words like poultry, vermin, cattle, people and gentry are always used as plurals.
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