Collective Nouns: What Are Collective Nouns? Definition and Examples

By Carly Forsaith, updated on August 11, 2023

Do you want to learn more about collective nouns? Then you're in the right place. This article will teach you everything you need to know about them and how to use them in your writing.

In short:

  • Collective nouns name a group of people, animals, or things.

This guide is part of our free online Grammar Book.

What Are Collective Nouns?

While a noun is a naming word that refers to a person, animal, place, or thing, a collective noun is a naming word that refers to a group of them.

Let's use the example of a cow. A cow is an animal, and the word 'cow' is a noun. What if you saw many cows and wanted to talk about them? Well, you could say "a lot of cows" or "a bunch of cows," but there's a proper word for it: ' herd.' 'Herd' is the collective noun used to refer to a group of cows.

And guess what? There are hundreds more of these words to refer to groups of people, animals, places, or things. Neat, right?

Here are just some of them.


  • Pack (of wolves)
  • School (of fish)
  • Swarm (of bees)
  • Herd (of sheep)
  • Flock (of birds)
  • Pride (of lions)
  • Gaggle (of geese)
  • Pod (of dolphins)


  • Army (of militants)
  • Class (of students)
  • Choir (of singers)
  • Jury (of jurors)
  • Team (of team members)
  • Family (of family members)
  • Troupe (of actors)
  • Crew (of sailors)

Things and Places

  • Galaxy (of planets)
  • Battle (of ships)
  • Grove (of trees)
  • Chain (of islands)
  • Album (of photographs)
  • Stack (of hay)
  • Palette (of colors)
  • Library (of books)

Singular or Plural?

While using collective nouns is straightforward enough, one thing that can really trip people up is subject-verb agreement. This is confusing because it's sometimes hard to tell whether a collective noun is singular or plural.

A singular noun refers to just one thing, while a plural noun refers to multiple things. But a collective noun is one thing that refers to multiple things... so you can see the dilemma!

The truth is that collective nouns can be both singular and plural. Most of the time, though, they're singular. Even in those few cases where the plural form is acceptable, the singular form is always correct. The best way to decide is to think about whether it's the group that's performing the behavior you want to talk about or if it's the individuals in the group that are doing it.

Here's an example:

The choir sounds wonderful. 

The choir are having lunch afterwards.

In the first sentence, 'choir' is treated as a singular noun because it's the choir that sounds wonderful—the collective voices of each member joined into one. In the second sentence, 'choir' is considered plural because it's the individual members of the choir that are having lunch, not the choir.

It would still be correct to say:

The choir is having lunch afterwards.

Because the singular form is always correct for collective nouns, if you're ever unsure, go for the singular form, and you can't go wrong.

Subject-verb agreement rules dictate that if the subject is singular, the verb should be conjugated singularly too. If the subject is plural, the verb should be in the plural form. Ensure you get your subject-verb agreement right when using collective nouns.

A Few Exceptions

Some collective nouns can only ever be singular:

Everybody is

Everyone is

Nobody is

No one is

You might be starting to see why treating collective nouns as singular makes the most sense to avoid any confusion or errors in your writing.

Collective Nouns Examples

Now we've pretty much covered what collective nouns are and when they should be singular vs. when they should be plural. Let's take a look at some examples of collective nouns in sentences.

The hedge of bushes outside the house is getting overgrown.

My packet of cigarettes has disappeared!

The Smith family have gone on holiday.

What year did The Spice Girls break up?

The Himalaya mountain range has some of the Earth's highest peaks.

The catalog lists all the prices.

I saw a beautiful chest of drawers at the store today.

It appeared that the jury were still deliberating. 

He got me a bouquet of flowers.

A group of activists is camping out outside the fast-food chain stores.

Concluding Thoughts

That concludes this article on collective nouns. I hope you found it helpful.

Let's summarize what we've learned:

  • Collective nouns name a group of animals, people, places, or things.
  • They are most often treated as singular but can sometimes be plural. 
  • Ensure you're using the correct subject-verb agreement.

If you enjoyed this article, you might like our Grammar Book. It's a free online database of articles just like this one.

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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