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Collective nouns

We use collective nouns to refer to groups of people, animals, or objects.

  • I saw a flock of birds flying across the river.
  • The jury was in an isolated room as it deliberated.
  • The actor wanted to thank the crew for all their hard work.
  • We hiked up the range of mountains to the east of the city.

Collective nouns can be singular or plural

Collective nouns are singular when we think of the group as a single unit, rather than separate individuals. This affects the determiners and verbs that go with the noun, as well as the pronouns that refer to it. In American English, it is common for speakers to treat all collective nouns as singular.

  • The committee is working on organising all sportive events this season.
  • The pride of lions is moving closer to the village so there is an elevated risk of attacks.
  • We planted a hedge of bushes to divide our land.

Collective nouns are plural when we think of the individuals that form the group

  • My team was very excited to win the competition.
  • The fleet was rapidly approaching the harbour.

Essential English Grammar – A Friendly Approach

Lesson #41: Collective nouns

Collective nouns are used to refer to groups of people, animals, or objects. Collective nouns can be singular or plural. Generally, collective nouns are specific to certain things or people. I.e., a bar of soap, pride of lions, or a pack of hounds. For example, you wouldn’t use the collective noun, pack to refer to some people. Pack refers to a group of dogs/hounds.

Contexto

  • Oh, crikey1!
  • What’s the matter, Dave?
  • I’ve got a heap2 of work to do. I hate working, and I’m so tired today.
  • Why are you so tired then?
  • Yesterday3, I hiked up a range4 of mountains. I probably spent5 at least four hours hiking. It’s very beautiful, but today I feel exhausted.
  • So what do you think of the nature then?
  • Well, there were swarms5 of insects, a huge flock6 of birds flying above, and packs7 of wolves!
  • I see you weren’t short of8 wildlife then.
  • Absolutely not. I love the wildlife, and everything is has to offer. I believe it’s one of the best ways to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.

Analysis

  1. Crikey:  an expression of surprise.
  2. Heap: a collective noun that can refer to something being large, especially a workload of some sort.
  3. Yesterday: an adverb of time.
  4. Range: a collective noun that refers to the grouping of mountains.
  5. Swarm: a collective noun that is used to refer to flying insects. Swarm without (s) is singular and refers to one group of insects. Swarms with (s) is plural, and refers to several groups of flying insects.
  6. Flock: a collective noun that refers a groups of birds.
  7. Pack: a collective noun that refers to a group of people, animals, or objects, especially if we consider the group to be unwelcoming or unpleasant. I.e., a pack of liars. Packs of wolves were about to attack us.
  8. Short of (something): is an expression used to mean ‘’not enough of’’ or ‘’inferior to’’. I.e., we’re short of bread, could you get me some please?

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