A collective noun is a word that is used to refer to a number of people, animals, or things that we group together and speak of as a whole. Some examples: a bunch of bananas, a herd of water buffaloes (plural of buffalo can also be buffalo), a litter of puppies, a flock of sheep, and a package of cookies.
The use of a collective noun in a sentence can cause difficulty as to whether it takes a singular or plural verb. It depends on how the collective noun is to be expressed –
as a group performing together or individually. If members of the group are viewed as a single unit acting together,
a singular verb is used. If they are regarded as separate members acting individually, a plural verb is used.
A collective noun must use a correct pronoun; that is, a collective noun treated as singular must use a singular possessive pronoun. Likewise, a plural collective noun takes a plural possessive pronoun. The following table shows the examples.
Our team has won its first trophy. (The singular possessive pronoun is its, and it agrees with the singular collective noun team.)
Our team are deciding on the strategy for their next game. (Plural possessive pronoun their agrees with the plural collective noun team.)
The full orchestra led by its new conductor is performing in the city.
The orchestra do not agree to the venue for their next performance.
The audience showed its approval by clapping and cheering.
When the curtain came down, the audience began leaving their seats.
Firstly The family is planning an overseas trip.
Secoundly (The family is viewed as a single group planning for an overseas trip together, so it takes a singular verb.)
Thirdly The family are discussing about the plan.
(Members of the family are looked at separately, taking part in the discussion and are not acting as a group,so a plural verb is used.)
Singular and plural collective nouns
Following are examples of collective nouns being used as singular and plural nouns.
The explorers stumbled across a species of plant unknown to science.
Different fish species have been found in the coastal waters of the island.Different fish species have been found in the coastal waters of the island.
Data indicates that most of the offenders come from broken home.
We will not draw any conclusion until we have looked at all the data.We will not draw any conclusion until we have looked at all the data.
Statistics is included in this year’s Mathematics syllabus.
The statistics tell us the current trend is towards more consumers’ spending.
The enemy is calling for a ceasefire.
The enemy were advised to surrender. (The plural of enemy is enemies. But enemy, although a singular noun,
can take a plural verb such as were when it is regarded as a group of enemies.)
Your puppy is sleeping underneath my car. (Preposition)
His left eye was swollen with a bruise underneath. (Adverb)
Usually, the collective noun takes a singular verb as it is looked at as a single unit. But if the emphasis is on the individual parts,
the collective noun is treated as a plural and a plural verb is used.
The team is in the bus heading for the stadium.
The team are discussing about their next opponent.
The jury has retired to consider its verdict.
The jury were unanimous in their verdict.
The public has the right to know how the investigation is going.
The public are calling for the bomber to be hanged or face life imprisonment.
If you are uncertain about whether a singular or plural verb should be used, you can rewrite as the following.
The team members are discussing about their opponent.
Members of the jury/The jury members were unanimous in their verdict.
Members of the public are calling for the bomber to be hanged or face life imprisonment.
Composite subject takes a singular verb
for no man.subjects can be so closely linked that they form a composite subject and expresses a single idea. A composite subject takes a singular verb.
Time and tide waits for no man.
Bread and jam is what he eats most in the morning.
Bread and breakfast is what we will look for when we arrive there.
Spaghetti and meatballs is my favourite dish.