Skip to main content

Collective Nouns and How to Use Them

Collective nouns and their background

Carlene Palm

Manager, Client & Author Services

Doing It Together: Understanding Collective Nouns

One of the most basic grammar rules is subject and verb agreement. Without it, a sentence quickly becomes confusing. If you have a singular subject, you use a singular verb:

This sandwich is delicious.

If you have a plural subject, you use a plural verb:

Cats and dogs are common household pets.

Collective Nouns

In your writing for Textbroker, you might have noticed that, when you write about business topics, you use words like staff or committee; other issues might require you to use words like society, team, group, audience, or family. These words are all known as collective nouns. Collective nouns bundle individuals into a whole that acts as a single unit. Therefore, most of the time, collective nouns use a singular verb.

The committee holds meetings at the local recreation center.

My family likes to play board games on Friday nights.

You also want to stick to pronoun consistency when using collective nouns.

The audience shows appreciation by clapping at the end of the play.

Ultimately, suppose you aren’t sure whether your word takes a plural or singular verb. In that case, you can always check your usage or change the sentence by substituting words like members or individuals that are more obviously plural.

The members of the team practice during the day.

Collective Proper Nouns

Collective nouns are especially common when using proper nouns like the names of music groups and businesses. While made up of several members, they function as a group:

Imagine Dragons is performing in Las Vegas.

Starbucks uses the largest number of coffee cups in the world.

If you substitute the generic collective nouns “the band” or “the company” for the proper nouns above, it becomes clear that a singular verb should be used.


In the English language, there are always exceptions. A typical example is sports teams where the team name—a collective noun—uses the plural, but referring to the team by its city uses the singular.

The Patriots have won several Super Bowls.

New England is playing in the Super Bowl again this year.

You might also discover that this rule with collective nouns doesn’t necessarily apply if you are asked to write something using British English. A plural verb is used with collective nouns if the group acts as a whole but switches to singular if members within the group work individually.

The staff are expecting guests to arrive around noon.

The staff is busy preparing rooms for guests.

Additionally, in American English, while words like couple or pair are collective nouns, it’s acceptable to use singular or plural verbs, depending on whether you think your subject is acting individually or together. The important thing is to be consistent within your piece of writing.

The pair of ducks are waddling by the pond -or- The pair of ducks is waddling by the pond.

Related To Collective Nouns

When you have a quantity, measurement, time period, or amount grouped together, it might look plural, but you use the singular verb.

Three dollars is not a lot of money.

Fifty years is a long time.

Mass nouns, also called noncount nouns, cannot be plural since they can’t have a number placed in front of them. So, words like furniture, equipment, sand, and homework use a singular verb.

This new computer equipment uses advanced technology.

Her furniture was arranged to allow a full view of the TV.

Begin your freelance career by writing at Textbroker.
Sign up today!

Register for Free!


Textbroker offers an extended level of service with the Managed Service option. Managed Service gives you additional support and a personal account manager when you want us to manage your projects for you. Find out more here.

Request a quote


Do you need up-to-date content? Then manage your project through Textbroker’s Self-Service. You choose the quality level, price, and author for your content.

Register for free!


Thousands of authors from across the U.S. earn money with Textbroker, the leading provider of unique, custom content. Become a Textbroker author now and access thousands of projects to choose from.

Register for free!