Collective Nouns – Singular or Plural?

Collective nouns can be singular or plural depending on the sense.

  • The school is the best in the town.
  • The school have beaten all the other teams at hockey.
  • Not:   The cattle were in the field. It had been there all day.

If you are thinking of the whole unit then it is singular, if you are thinking of its members then it is plural.

For example:

  • my family is coming on Friday or my family are coming on Friday.
  • Sweden is playing Denmark in the European Cut or Sweden are playing Denmark. Singular if you mean the team and plural if you mean the team members.

Some everyday collective nouns.


admiralty              corporation            pair

army                     council                   party

assembly              couple                  population

association           crew                     press

audience              crowd                    public

band                    department             race

board                   family                      royalty

Cabinet                firm                         school

cattle                    government          society

class                    group                     staff

club                      jury                         team

college                majority                university

committee           minority                youth

company             orchestra              countries

congregation       nation                 teams

parliament           government


News is singular, collection is singular, people are plural, scissors are plural.

Each, everybody, everyone, anybody, anyone, somebody, someone, nobody, no-one, and none are singular.

What is wrong in the following sentences?

  •  His collection of books were on the shelves all round his room.
  • The scissors is under the table because no one have picked them up.
  • News are always late arriving as people here has few televisions or newspapers.
  • The teacher told the class that each of them had to do the work by themselves.
  • The team was late beginning their practice.
  • They were a happy family and always spent its holiday together.
  • Nobody were able to come that evening.
  • Each of them have a computer.
  • Everybody there were asked to give some money to a good cause.
  •  None of them are correct.
  •  Have anyone come yet?
  •  Someone are coming along the road now.
  •  The staff were united. It was ready for anything.
  •  The press has remained silent. They are not doing their public duty.
  • The orchestra were tuning up for ten minutes before it was ready to begin playing.
  • Each member of the society were to vote.
  • Everybody in the department were ready to do their jobs.
  • Somebody in the Cabinet were not loyal to their colleagues.
  • Everyone in the audience clapped as hard as they could.


Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

6 thoughts

  1. Other questions to ponder — when did “pants” become “pant?” I thought that panting is what a dog does… And when did author, gift, and journal become verbs? I find this time of year particularly upsetting as everyone seems to be gifting and then authoring about it.

  2. We all need a linguistic kick in the butt once in a while. These that you post are great and if I was still teaching I’d definitely use them.

  3. In American English we would say, “The school has beaten …” I prefer the British English way, which reflects that not the school building, but the collective student body, has beaten all of the other teams in hockey, but when in Rome … 😉

    1. Well, actually, not the collective student body, but the hockey team representing the honor and pride of the collective student body … Oh, I need coffee. 8-o

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