WordReference Random House Learner's Dictionary of American English © 2017
colˈlec•tive ˈnoun, n. [countable]
  • Grammar, Pronounsa noun, such as herd, jury, or clergy, that appears singular in formal shape but names a group of individuals or objects.
    • A collective noun will sometimes be used with a singular verb and sometimes with a plural verb. This depends on whether the word is being used to refer to the group as a unit or to its members as individuals. In American English a noun naming an organization that is thought of as a unit is usually treated as singular: The corporation is holding its annual meeting. The government has taken action. In British English, such nouns are commonly treated as plurals: The corporation are holding their annual meeting. The government are in agreement. In formal speech and writing collective nouns are usually not treated as both singular and plural in the same sentence;
      if the verb is singular, the pronoun referring to it should also be singular: The enemy is fortifying its position. If the verb is plural, the pronoun should be plural: The enemy are bringing up their heavy artillery. When the nouns couple and pair refer to people, they are usually treated as plurals: The newly married couple have bought a house. The pair are busy furnishing their new home. The collective noun number, when preceded by a, is treated as a plural: A number of solutions were suggested. When number is preceded by the, it is usually treated as a singular: The number of solutions offered was astounding. Other common collective nouns are audience, class, committee, crew, crowd, family, flock, group, panel, and staff.

    WordReference Random House Unabridged Dictionary of American English © 2017
    collective noun, [Gram.]
    1. Grammar, Pronounsa noun, as herd, jury, or clergy, that appears singular in formal shape but denotes a group of persons or objects.
    • 1510–20
      Whether a collective noun, which is singular in form, is used with a singular or plural verb depends on whether the word is referring to the group as a unit or to its members as individuals. In American English, a collective noun naming an organization regarded as a unit is usually treated as singular:The corporation is holding its annual meeting. The team is having a winning season. The government has taken action.In British English, such nouns are commonly treated as plurals:The corporation are holding their annual meeting. The team are playing well. The government are in agreement.When a collective noun naming a group of persons is treated as singular, it is referred to by the relative pronoun that or which: His crew is one that (or which) works hard. When such a noun is treated as plural, the pronoun is who: His crew are specialists who volunteered for the project. In formal speech and writing, collective nouns are usually not treated as both singular and plural in the same sentence:The enemy is fortifying its(not their) position. The enemy are bringing up their heavy artillery.When the collective nouns couple and pair refer to people, they are usually treated as plurals:The newly married couple have found a house near good transportation. The pair are busy furnishing their new home.The collective noun number, when preceded by a, is treated as a plural:A number of solutions were suggested.When preceded by the, it is treated as a singular:The number of solutions offered was astounding.Other common collective nouns are class, crowd, flock, panel, committee, group, audience, staff, and family.


    Collins Concise English Dictionary © HarperCollins Publishers::

    collective noun n
    1. a noun that is singular in form but that refers to a group of people or things
    Collective nouns are usually used with singular verbs: the family is on holiday; General Motors is mounting a big sales campaign. In British usage, however, plural verbs are sometimes employed in this context, esp when reference is being made to a collection of individual objects or people rather than to the group as a unit: the family are all on holiday. Care should be taken that the same collective noun is not treated as both singular and plural in the same sentence: the family is well and sends its best wishes or the family are all well and send their best wishes, but not the family is well and send their best wishes



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