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Identify Collective Nouns in Sentences

A noun is a person, place, or a thing. A collective noun is a special kind of noun. It names a group of people or things. That group is considered one unit or one whole.

Example: We watched an orchestra of musicians rehearse in the theater.
'Orchestra' refers to a group of musicians, who rehearse together.

Examples of collective nouns include words like group, class, team, committee, crowd, number, audience and family. Collective nouns are a fun way to make writing more interesting.

Read the following example phrases. Here, each collective noun is underlined.

a swarm of bees

a crowd of people

a staff of teachers

a flock of sheep

a school of fish

a crew of sailors

an audience of spectators

an army of caterpillars, frogs or soldiers

As you can see in these examples, the words "a" or "an" usually come before a collective noun. Collective nouns can also be singular or plural. However, most collective nouns are written as singular nouns.

Using 'of' with collective nouns:
Collective nouns are usually followed by the word "of" and a noun telling who or what belongs in that group.

For example: -

1. a troop of 'apes'  'apes' (noun) are part of a troop.
2. a pride of 'lions' 'lions' (noun) make up a pride.
3. a chain of 'islands' 'islands' (noun) are part of a chain.
4. a brood of 'hens' 'hens' (noun) are part of a brood.

Animate and Inanimate Collective Nouns:
Collective nouns can be animate or inanimate. Animate nouns refer to things that are living. Some examples are words like flock, pack, pride, pod, colony, swarm, school and herd. Inanimate nouns refer to things that are not living.

1. A gaggle of geese.
Gaggle is an animate collective noun.

2. A deck of cards.
Deck is an inanimate collective noun.

Read the following example phrases. Here, each collective noun is underlined.

a clutch of chicks

a trip of goats

a pack of dogs

a litter of kittens

a bed of snakes

a pod of whales

a herd of cattle

a colony of ants

In all these examples, each animal is part of the whole group.

A 'chick' belongs to a clutch. A 'kitten' is part of a litter. 
A 'snake' is part of a bed. A 'whale' belongs to a pod.
A 'cattle' is part of a herd. An 'ant' sticks with its colony.

Some collective nouns that describe groups of animals can be used for more than one group of animals. For example, the collective noun "herd" can be used to describe a group of cattle, buffalo, moose, deer, elephants, and other animals.

What Verb To Use With a Collective Noun?
Collective nouns can be tricky to pair with verbs. They can often appear to be plural when in fact they are singular. Nouns and verbs must be in agreement to make an accurate sentence. Most collective nouns use a singular noun instead of a plural noun. This means that they require a singular verb.

Read the examples below. Here, the collective nouns and the verbs are shown in bold.

1. A huge crowd of customers gathers at the front door.
2. A school of fish always stays together.
3. A squad of officers guards the palace.
4. The crew of sailors works hard on their ship.

Here, each singular verb .ie., gathers, stays, guards and works, agree with the respective singular collective noun, i.e., crowd, school, squad and crew. © 2014. All Rights Reserved.