How to Use Collective Nouns Correctly?

Grammar in any language is tricky, and English is no exception. Whether you’re a native speaker or a learner of English, it’s easy to get mixed up with the finer points of English. One common source of confusion is collective nouns. Collective nouns refer to a group of people, animals, or things.

But what are some collective noun examples? Are collective nouns singular or plural? Do we say “a herd of cows go through the fence,” or “a herd of cows goes through the fence”?

Let’s look at some common collective noun examples and learn all about how to use them correctly, so you’ll never find yourself wondering again.

Collective Noun Examples

Collective nouns refer to a group of people, animals, or things. In other words, many individuals of the same class or type can be referred to by a single word. Different nouns take different collective nouns.

Let’s look at a list of 10 collective noun examples.

  1. A group of people
  2. A herd of cows
  3. A flock of birds
  4. A gaggle of geese
  5. A colony of ants
  6. A pack of wolves
  7. A team of players
  8. A swarm of bees
  9. A school of fish
  10. A pod of whales

A word of caution here—beware of the fact that different collective nouns describe animals and people and this has the potential to cause accidental offense.

For example, describing a group of people as a “pod” or “herd” might make it seem like you are referring to them as animals. If that isn’t your intention, it’s best to stick to the more generic descriptor “group.”

There are also some fun and unique collective nouns, including:

  1. A murder of crows
  2. An exaltation of larks
  3. A tuxedo of penguins
  4. A parliament of owls
  5. A charm of goldfinches

Are Collective Nouns Singular or Plural?

Because collective nouns describe many things, it’s easy to assume that they are plural. Hence, many people make mistakes when it comes to subject-verb agreement with collective nouns.

Collective nouns are generally singular as they describe the things or individuals as one unit, and hence are paired with a singular verb.

Let’s look at a few examples:

  • Correct: The herd of cows goes through the fence.
  • Incorrect: The herd of cows go through the fence.


  • Correct: The flock of birds cries as they fly overhead.
  • Incorrect: The flock of birds cry as they fly overhead.


  • Correct: The group of children runs on the playground.
  • Incorrect: The group of children run on the playground.

Common Causes of Confusion with Collective Nouns

Are all collective nouns always singular? They are not! In fact, one common point of confusion with collective nouns is that some of them can be plural as well. What does that mean? Well, let’s consider the collective nouns “family” and “families.” Which of the following is correct?

  • The family is going on vacation together.
  • The family are going on vacation together.


  • The families are going on vacation together.
  • The families is going on vacation together.

Both of these are collective nouns, but one describes a group of individuals (family) and one describes a group of groups (families).

However, to determine whether to use a singular or plural verb, you need to look at the collective noun itself to see if it is singular or plural. Since the word “family” is singular, we should use a singular verb. So,

  • The family is going on vacation together.

is correct. Since the word “families” is plural (ending in ies), we should use a plural verb. So,

  • The families are going on vacation together.

is correct.

Some other examples of collective nouns that can be plural include:

  • Alumni
  • Media
  • Staff
  • Athletics
  • Species

Let’s use them in a sentence:

  • The alumni were invited to the parade.
  • The media sat outside his house, waiting.
  • Her staff were angry when they heard the news of the pay cut.
  • The school’s athletics are famous.
  • Although Arizona is a desert, it is home to a variety of species that flourish in the hot sun.

Getting it Right Every Time

In both academia and professional life, clear communication is essential. Knowing how to use tricky words and grammar points correctly will make sure that your meaning is never misconstrued.

Now that you know how to use collective nouns properly, you’re one step closer to always writing in perfect English. But another way is to use a built-in grammar and spell checker.

Online AI grammar checkers like Trinka expertly proofread your writing in all kinds of contexts as you write. By using an AI grammar checker, you won’t have to worry about choosing the right verb tense with a collective noun. The grammar checker will do it for you.

But now that you know the simple rule for using collective nouns, you can use them in writing and speech with confidence.

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