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Collective Noun

Term Definition
Collective Noun

The definition of a collective noun is a noun that refers to a group of people or things as one unit. An example of a collective noun is organization.

What is a collective noun?

Would you like to learn about what a collective noun is?

In that case, this glossary entry is the right place for you. By the time you're done reading this, you'll have a thorough understanding of what a collective noun is. 

A collective noun is basically just a noun that refers to a group of objects, as opposed to a single object. 

For example, the word "group" is a common collective noun in the English language. 

Grammatically, the collective noun is treated as a singular noun, even though it refers to more than one object.

Using collective nouns in sentences

Here is an example for you of the collective noun being used correctly in a sentence. 

The nature documentary on lions focused on the way in which a typical pride organized itself into a social hierarchy."

The term "pride" is a correctly used collective noun in this sentence.

Now, here is an example of the incorrect use of the collective noun. 

"At the office party, a groups of managers congratulated employees of the organization on doing such a good job this year." 

The problem here is that the collective noun "group" is formed into the plural as opposed to singular tense

In case you would like more information about the collective noun, here are a couple rules you can follow in order to make sure you're using it in a correct way.

1. The collective noun, as such, is singular in form, even though it refers to a group of objects. (So, there's no "s" at the end of it.) However, the collective noun can be used in plural form if you're talking about several collectives—for example, five "groups" of people. 

2. The main thing to focus on with the collective noun is conjugation. For example, you would have to say that the group of people "was" doing something, and not that they "were" doing something. Again, this is because the collective noun itself is in the singular form. 

Additional information and usage

The main function served by the collective noun is to enable people to talk about several objects or elements as an aggregate, or unit in and of itself. For example, when public health officials talk about a "population," the population is a collective noun that includes each of the individual persons who are part of the population. Talking about the world in this way allows for certain kinds of analysis and insight that would not otherwise be possible. For example, if one uses the collective noun "pack" when talking about wolves, this calls attention to the social organization of the wolves, insofar as all the wolves together can be seen as making a larger whole of some kind.

Moreover, the collective noun can be understood as an expression of the fact that people (as well as many other animals) are social creatures, and that they often come together into larger groups in order to achieve a wide range of objectives. For example, several sports are based on the organization of the team; and "team" itself would be a collective noun that encompasses each of the members of the team. There are several cases in which it would be more useful and effective to talk about a given team as a whole and not each individual member. The collective noun can help fulfill this purpose.

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Synonyms: collective-noun

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