JURY FAMILY CLASS AUDIENCE ARMY TEAM MAJORITY COMMITTEE DEPARTMENT GROUP COMPANY SOCIETY FLOCK
PACK COMPANY HERD CREW TROUPE STAFF CHOIR GANG
What do the above nouns have in common? Each represents a group (or collection) of individuals, animals, or things. It just so happens there's a special term for nouns like these: COLLECTIVE NOUNS. Unlike with COMMON NOUNS such as dog, tree, and book, it can be tricky to determine whether a COLLECTIVE NOUN is singular or plural. But if you ask yourself the following question, your confusion will be cleared!
Are you writing about a group as a whole
OR focusing on the individual members within?
If your answer is the group as a whole, treat the COLLECTIVE NOUN as SINGULAR.
If your intent is to focus on the group's individual members, treat the COLLECTIVE NOUN as PLURAL.
Below are some examples to demonstrate the difference. Since the plural treatment can sound a bit awkward to the ear, I'll also show you alternative suggestions for those.
TEAM as a group
The team is ranked first in its division.
(is, its = SINGULAR)
TEAM as individual players
The team lace up their sneakers.
OR: The team members lace up their sneakers.
(lace, their = PLURAL)
JURY as a unit
The jury has reached a verdict.
(has = SINGULAR)
JURY as individual jurors
The jury hail from all walks of life.
OR: The jurors hail from all walks of life.
(hail = PLURAL)
FAMILY as a unit
My family lives in Massachusetts.
(lives = SINGULAR)
FAMILY as individual members
My extended family are scattered across the globe.
OR: My extended family members are scattered across the globe.
(are = PLURAL)
Notice how two of the plural examples added the word members after the COLLECTIVE NOUN? Here are some other possibilities for describing individuals: participants, employees, recruits, sopranos, and players. Can you think of any more? Have fun with it!
I hope you enjoyed this spoonful. Please feel free to share!
Laura Fineberg Cooper
6/9/2019 07:21:07 pm
The term collective nouns is new since I took English classes so many years ago. In the centennial edition for our Club, I run into this situation often. Shen we get to the editing phase, I will keep this in mind. I think up to now, I've relied on what sounded right.
6/9/2019 08:00:21 pm
REALLY like your helpful examples. Adding a word such as "member" or "participant" helps to avoid phrasing that sounds incorrect, even though it is correct.
6/10/2019 10:50:50 am
Great explanation of how to figure this out. Love the idea of adding the word members to those trickiest of sentences.
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