What is a collective noun?

What is a collective noun?
Collective nouns explained for primary-school parents, including examples of collective nouns and how they are used.

What is a collective noun?

A collective noun is a noun used to refer to a group of things.

For example:

You do not always need to have 'of....' after the collective noun; we also talk about a family, a jury, a team, an audience or a congregation.

In terms of subject-verb agreement, most collective nouns can be treated as singular or plural so we can use a singular verb or a plural noun when we use them. For example:

The whole class love their teacher. (singular verb)
OR
The whole class loves their teacher. (plural verb)

Some collective nouns, like people and police, are always used with a plural verb.

What are children taught at each stage of primary school regarding collective nouns?

Collective nouns are not found in the 2014 curriculum or in the latest Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling tests.

What could you do at home to help your child understand collective nouns?

Collective nouns can be really interesting and funny! Why not investigate some online? Kids' facts website Jellyquest has a comprehensive collective nouns list.

 
A beautiful collective nouns range is available from Perkins & Morley. Image © Perkins and Morley

  • Cut up some pieces of green card and write the following on each: bees, flowers, people, trees, fish, wolves, grapes, puppies. Now cut up some pieces of yellow card and write the following on each: crowd, pack, litter, bunch, swarm, bouquet, forest, shoal. Ask your child to match the green cards to the yellow cards. (Answers: a crowd of people, a pack of wolves, a litter of puppies, a bunch of grapes, a swarm of bees, a bouquet of flowers, a forest of trees, a shoal of fish.)
  • Give your child some collective nouns that apply to various different things, for example: a pack of..., a series of...., a pile of...., a set of....  Ask your child to see if they can think of two different ways to complete each one.
  • Ask your child to name an animal, an object and a particular profession. See if they can find out the collective noun for each of these. If your child is searching online, please make sure you supervise them closely.
  • Once your child has done some more research into collective nouns, see if they can write a very short nonsense story including ten collective nouns, for example: 'A crowd of people walked into a forest of trees and saw a pack of wolves who gave them a bouquet of flowers...'