Grammar. 05.04.2015
Grammar Teacher

Collective nouns

Автор: Grammar Teacher

 Hello guys! Today I will tell you about some special words called collective nouns.

Which sentence is correct?

My family has dinner together every Sunday.

My family have dinner every day.

Actually, both! But why?

Let’s find out…

So, there are some words that can be and singular, and plural at the same time. For example, family. A family = 1 family, one social unit. At the same time, a family has more than one person, so it’s plural, it has several members.

Such nouns are called collective nouns. They collect several members into a group.

Here are some more common collective nouns: 




































There are also collective nouns about groups of animals. You can find some of them here or here.

So how can we understand whether a collective noun should be plural or singular? Here’s how:

If the group acts together in unison = then it acts as ONE. All members do the same thing at the same time. So we use a singular verb, singular pronouns.

If each member does something different = then the group consists of individual members who are all doing different things, so we should use a plural verb, a plural pronoun.

A collective noun is SINGULAR if it acts as a unit.

A collective noun is PLURAL if the members act as individuals.

Here are some examples:

·         {C}The audience claps when the show is over. (all members of the audience clap together)

·         {C}A minority of my classmates were looking for their books. (Each classmate was looking for his/her books, not for the same ones, so they were not acting as one group)

·         {C}The class takes a test every Monday. (All the members in the class together, the same test, at the same time)

·         {C}The team always go home after training. (Each member goes to a different house, maybe at different times)

·         {C}The jury agrees that the victim is guilty. (The jury unanimously = as one = decided that the victim is guilty).

·         {C}The jury are arguing. (They are not all together, they are saying different things)

·         {C}This couple are living in different houses now. (Each member of this couple is living in his/her own house).

·         {C}The couple is spending their honeymoon in Brazil. (together as one unit, at the same place at the same time)


Tell me, which sentences are correct grammatically? 


  • 10% of people are Muslim.
  •  {C}10% of people is Muslim.
  •  {C}Two thirds of the room has been painted.
  • Two thirds of the room have been painted.

Fractions (дроби) and percentages are plural or singular depending on the object. So we have 10% of PEOPLE (people = object). People are plural. So 10% become plural. So the sentence “10% of people ARE Muslim” is correct.

In the last two examples, “the room” is singular. So “two thirds of the room” is also singular in this case. So we should say “2/3 of the room HAS been painted”. 


Tell me, can I say this?

The staff is thinking of leaving their jobs.
Why or why not? 

You were right. I cannot say this. Because I have “the staff”, which is a collective noun. I used “is thinking”, so I used a singular verb, but then I said “their”, so I used a plural pronoun. I need to make a choice – singular or plural? And stick to it.

So I can say: The staff are thinking of leaving their jobs. Or the staff is thinking of leaving its job. But I cannot mix these two sentences.


Please choose the correct answer: 

  1. The team is/are headed for the national competitions.
  2. The jury is/are having its/their coffee break.
  3. Our staff work/works hard every day.
  4. The family live/lives in different cities.
  5. Half of my classmates is/are British. 


Adam will tell you more on collective nouns:



Don’t forget to practice!
1. Choose the correct verb.
2. Plural or singular? 
3. Choose the correct collective noun.

Thanks for reading! :) 

P.S. Here are the correct answers: 


  1. Is. (all of the team as one)
  2. Are/its (each member is spending this time individually)
  3. Works (they all work hard together)
  4. Live (each member lives individually, so here ‘family’ is a plural noun)
  5. Are (classmates = plural, so half of my classmates = plural)



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