In English language there is a special category of nouns called collective (collective nouns). They represent a group of people, animals, objects, phenomena, etc., which are perceived by the speaker as a whole.

Collective nouns in English quite a lot, and some of them are quite common, while others you rarely hear even in the speech of a native speaker. Some of them you probably already know:

family – family
class – the class
audience – the audience; people in the audience
police – the police
team – team
a herd of geese – a flock of geese
a pack of dogs – a pack of dogs
a school of fish – school of fish

As you can see, some of these expressions can’t be translated literally from English into Russian and Vice versa: for example, a school of fish – it’s not «school of fish». To correctly and accurately translate such expressions with collective nouns, it is sometimes necessary to turn to the dictionary.

Its value we can distinguish several major groups collective nouns:

  • Refers to a group of people:

a class of students , a crowd of people, a team of players etc.

  • For a group of animals:

a herd of cattle, a flock of birds, a pack of dogs etc.

  • Refers to a group of objects:

a bunch of keys, a deck of cards, a bouquet of flowers, etc.

Especially the use of collective nouns

The main difficulty in the use of collective nouns in the English language, their agreement with verbs and pronouns. If such a noun is in the singular, it can be used with verbs and pronouns as singular or plural. The choice often depends on the context and intent of the speaker. For example, if you are talking about a group of people or objects as a whole, use the verbs and pronouns in the singular. If it is important to emphasize that the group consists of individuals who may behave differently in the same situation, it would be appropriate to use the collective noun with verbs and pronouns in the plural.

My family is invited to the Rachel’s wedding.
My family invited to the wedding of Rachel.

The class is going to take an exam this Friday.
This Friday the class will take the exam.

In these cases, family and class are as one: the whole family is invited to the wedding, the whole class will pass the exam. So with collective nouns in these examples use the verb to be in singular.

Another possible context where the speaker wants to emphasize that the family (or class) consists of individuals, each with their own character, their habits and preferences, so members of the group in the same situation act differently. For example:

My family are getting ready for a journey: my mom is packing her clothes, and my brother is trying on his new suit.
The family is going on a trip: mom pack my clothes, and my brother tries on his new suit.

The class are preparing for the exam.
Class preparing for the exam.

In this context, family members act as individuals, performing different actions. Most likely, students are also preparing for the exam in different ways- each repeats the topics that cause difficulty him personally, doing exercises or solve the tasks. Therefore, in the examples used the verbs in the plural form.

All members of the proposal must be approved by the number: if the noun and the verb are in the singular, the pronoun (if any in the proposal) should also be in the singular. The same applies to the plural.

The team is on its way to the Super Bowl.
Team on the way to the super bowl.

The team are celebrating their win.
The team celebrates their victory.

In cases where to determine the number of the verb (and pronouns) it is difficult, you can do the following: rephrase the sentence so that it didn’t need to use collective nouns. For example:

family members family is
jury members instead of the jury
students is class
players instead of team
instead of zebras herd, etc.

In this case the noun is in the plural form clearly requires the use with verbs and pronouns in the plural.

Among the collective nouns, there are several exceptions – nouns which agree with the verb only in the singular or only in plural. For example, always agree with the verb in the singular of the following nouns: foliage, machinery.

The summer foliage is green, becoming olive and orange later.
Summer foliage is green, later becoming olive and orange.

Nouns people, police and some other almost always agree with the verb in the plural.

Police are investigating the bank robbery.
Police are investigating the theft of money from the Bank.

People in the room are waiting for someone to come.
The people in the room waiting when someone will come.

Collective nouns in English belong to the category of countable, i.e. can be used in the plural: families, classes, teams, etc., Such cases usually do not cause difficulties – if we are talking about several families, classes, teams, etc., the noun is used with a verb in plural form.