A collective noun is a noun that represents a collection of individuals, usually people, such as:
- a team (for example: eleven football players)
- a family (for example: mother, father and two children)
- a crew (for example: 100 sailors)
Here are some more collective noun examples. As you see, collective nouns can consist of a few people or tens, hundreds or thousands of people:
- committee, jury, senate, company, audience, police, army
Most collective nouns are groups of people, but some refer to animals or objects, for example:
- animals: a herd of cows, a flock of sheep
- objects: a fleet of ships, a convoy of trucks
Proper Nouns as Collective Nouns
Many collective nouns are common nouns, but they can also be proper nouns when they are the name of a company or other organisation with more than one person, for example Microsoft. Here are some more examples of collective nouns that are proper nouns:
- Sony, Apple, CNN, the BBC, the United Nations, WHO, Thai Air, Interpol, the FBI, Cambridge University, Manchester United
Is a Collective Noun Singular or Plural?
Each of the collective nouns above is a single “thing”. But it consists of more than one individual. So the question arises: is a collective noun singular or plural?
To which the answer is: it depends. A collective noun can be singular OR plural, depending on how you see the individuals in the group.
If you see the individuals acting together, as a whole, then you probably treat the collective noun as singular (with singular verbs and singular pronouns), for example:
- The jury has delivered its conclusion to the judge.
If you see the individuals acting individually, then you probably treat the collective noun as plural (with plural verbs and plural pronouns), for example:
- The jury have not reached a conclusion because they are still arguing among themselves.
Note that as a general rule:
- British English tends to treat collective nouns as plural
- American English tends to treat them as singular
So in the example above, American English speakers might use a singular verb with jury and rephrase the rest of the sentence to avoid a logical absurdity:
- The jury has not reached a conclusion because its members are still arguing among themselves.
However, even in American English, it is acceptable to use a plural verb if you really wish to emphasize the individuality of the collective noun members.
- The San Francisco crowd were their usual individualistic selves.
In American English it is also possible to use a plural pronoun with a singular verb, as in:
- The family next door is very quiet. We never hear them.
In all varieties of English, the collective noun police is always treated as plural:
- The police are coming.
- The police were the first on the scene.
- The police have issued their report.
A Collective Noun Can Itself Be Singular and Plural
In most cases a collective noun can itself be plural. In other words, you can have more than one collective noun. For example, in a game of football there are TWO teams. In a street there are many families. In such cases, a plural verb is automatically used, as in these examples:
- The many ships' crews in port at the time were constantly fighting.
- The two companies have been negotiating for over a week.
Finally, here are some more example sentences..
|The club was founded in 2003.||The club are currently displaying their best photos.|
|Does Sony make mobile phones?||Do Sony plan to make cars?|
|The board of directors uses this room for its meetings.||The board of directors are eating sandwiches for their lunch.|
|The family next door is very quiet. We never hear them.*||My family are always arguing. The neighbours often hear us.|
|The school reopens in September.||The school are preparing for their winter marathon.|
Are Names of Sports Teams and Bands Singular, or Plural?
When referring to athletic teams or similar groups, what form of verb or pronoun applies? The recent victory of the Miami Heat over the Oklahoma City Thunder in the National Basketball Association championships indirectly put this issue in the headlines.
I don’t follow professional sports, so I didn’t even know these teams existed, but when I saw a headline about the game, I was intrigued by the fact that both team names are singular in form, rather than plural (as in the case of “the Los Angeles Lakers” or “the Chicago Bulls”). Back in the old days, before a handful of NBA teams with singular-form names came on the scene (the Utah Jazz and the Orlando Magic are the others), the answer to this question was threefold but simple:
When referring to the team by its full name, pronouns and verbs take the plural form: “The Los Angeles Lakers are going to the playoffs.
” When referring to the organization that manages the team, they should be singular: “The Lakers organization is downplaying the incident.
” When the geographical designation alone is employed, go with the singular form: “Los Angeles is leading the division.”
But now that we have Heat, Jazz, Magic, and Thunder to contend with, what’s the rule? The Chicago Manual of Style provides no guidance about the issue, but The Associated Press Stylebook provides a definitive answer: Nothing’s changed: The Miami Heat are the new NBA champs. The Thunder lost, and they went home determined not to let that happen again.
British English and American English: Company, Team, and Band Names
It’s true. You aren’t imagining the difference. These aren’t hard-and-fast rules, but British English tends to treat team names, band names, and company names as plural, whereas American English tends to treat them as singular. And it often jumps out at me when I see it.
Company Names: Singular or Plural?
For example, I took a screenshot of a headline from the British publication “The Guardian” a few years ago because I knew I would write about this someday.
It read, “Amazon aren’t destroying publishing, they’re reshaping it.
” That headline is treating the company name, “Amazon,” as plural, but in American English, we’d definitely treat it as singular and write, “Amazon isn’t destroying publishing.”
Team Names: Singular or Plural?
Looking at “The Guardian” today, I found this example of how team or group names are handled differently.
There are a group of six footballers, or as we’d call them, soccer players, who were featured in a documentary about the team called Manchester United, and they’re known as the “Class of ‘92.
” Today’s headline reads, “Manchester United’s ‘class of 92’ unveil plans to open university.”
In American English, we’d treat “class of 92” as singular and say the “class of 92” unveils plan to open a university.”
The Complete Guide to British and American English • Albion Languages
This comprehensive guide is designed to help translators and proofreaders navigate through the many differences between British and American English in formatting, grammar, spelling and vocabulary.
For two countries that many still claim to speak the same language, the differences between British and American English are surprisingly extensive.
From punctuation to idioms, they are vast and varied, fully capable of affecting meaning and causing confusion. Worse still is their ability to break the emotional connection between the reader and the message of the translation.
A simple spelling mistake, a z instead of an s for example, is sure to make your reader think, “this is not intended for me”.
All into-English translators need to be aware of these key differences. Adapting your translation to the specific demands of British or American English is a simple yet essential method to ensure that your English translation is both accurate and effective.
|DD/MM/YY 17 February 2017||MM/DD/YY February 17, 2017|
Full stop + am/pm
9.30 am (AM, PM/a.m., p.m.)
Colon + am/pm
9:30 am (AM, PM/a.m., p.m.)
|No full stop after titles Dr Mr Mrs Ms||Full stop after titles Dr. Mr. Mrs. Ms.|
|Lowercase number abbreviation no. 5790||Capitalised number abbreviation No. 5790|
Only uses Oxford comma at the end of a list for clarification
I had eggs, toast and orange juice.
Almost always uses Oxford comma
I had eggs, toast, and orange juice.
Punctuation outside quotation marks (unless it is part of the spoken sentence).
“Hello”, she said, “How are you today?”
Punctuation inside quotation marks
“Hello,” she said, “How are you today?”
Always uses hyphens for compound adjectives before a noun
a print-out presentation
Tends to make compound words
a printout presentation
|Gerund + Noun Skipping Rope||Infinitive + Noun Jump rope|
|-t endings in past tense learnt, dreamt||-ed endings in past tense learned, dreamed|
Prefers present perfect
I’ve just had dinner.
Prefers past tense over present perfect
I just had dinner.
Past participle of get: Got
I’ve just got over a cold
I’ve just gotten over a cold
Past participle of Dive: Dived
He dived into the pool
He dove into the pool
|At the weekend||On the weekend|
|Play in a team||Play on a team|
|In hospital||In the hospital|
|Monday to Friday||Monday through Friday|
|Fill in a form||Fill out a form|
|Write to someone||Write someone|
|At the back||In the back|
|-ll travelled, levelled||-l traveled, leveled|
|-re centre, litre, theatre||-er center, liter, theater|
|-our colour, favour||-or color, favor|
|-ce licence, defence,||-se license, defense|
|-ise summarise, organise||-ize summarize, organize|
|-lyse analyse||-lyze analyze|
|-ae aetiology, anaemia, haemoglobin||-e etiology, anemia, hemoglobin|
|-oe foetus, oedema, oesophagus||-e fetus, edema, esophagus|
|-ogue dialogue, analogue||-og dialog, analog|
|-ph Sulphate, Sulphur||-f Sulfate, Sulfur|
|Quarter past (six)||Quarter after (six)|
|Half past six||Six thirty|
|Ten to six||Ten to, till, or before six|
|Car park||Parking lot|
|Ground floor||First Floor|
|Expiry Date||Expiration Date|
|Yours Sincerely,||Sincerely Yours,|
(when person addressed is not known)
|General Practitioner||Family Practitioner / Physician|
|Chemist / Chemist’s||Pharmacist, Drugstore / Pharmacy|
|Clinical Trial||Clinical Study|
*Refer to Spelling: British medical terms consistently use – ae and – oe.
Learn more: UK/US Medical Degrees
Automotive / Technical Vocabulary
|Lorry/ articulated lorry||Truck/tractor-trailer|
|Wing mirror||Rearview mirror|
Learn more: UK/US Automotive Terms
Legal / Business Vocabulary
|Solicitor / Barrister||Lawyer, Attorney|
|Managing Director||CEO (Chief Executive Officer)|
Learn more: UK/US Financial Terms
5 Tips for Clear, Concise English Translation
7 Steps to Quality Translation