A collective noun is a term used to refer to a group that is considered a single unit. Collective nouns are grammatically considered a single entity since the group members act or behave in unison. Some examples of collective nouns would be “choir,” “pride of lions,” “litter of cats”, etc.
Even though they may sound the same, a collective noun is not the same as a plural noun. A collective noun is used to refer to a group behaving in a singular way and hence, requires a singular verb. A plural noun on the other hand is simply used to refer to more than one person, place, or thing and needs the use of a plural verb. Plural nouns usually end in -s, -es, or -ies.
English grammar puts collective nouns into three categories on the basis of what the noun is referring to:
- People – Collective nouns that refer to groups of people. This includes army, league, government, team, and class.
- Animals: Collective nouns that refer to groups of animals are often specific to a particular species, such as a murder of crows, a pride of lions, a pod of whales, a flock of birds, a bevy of swans, a school of fish.
- Things: There are also collective nouns referring to things like a bloom of flowers or a grove of trees. Some collective nouns may not be part of everyday speech, but they can add interest and depth to your vocabulary and writing.
The tradition of using collective nouns specific to certain kinds of animals has roots in an old English hunting tradition of the Late Middle Ages. Such elements of vocabulary have been part of French and English hunting terminology by the beginning of the 14th century. It soon became a courtly fashion to expand that vocabulary, and the tendency had reached exaggerated proportions by the end of the 15th century.
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