While English is a truly wonderful language with a lot to learn, there are some things that can be tricky for a non-native speaker….and even some of us natives, too!! One of these things is collective nouns. If you are going to talk about collective nouns (Easy English Blog), then you have to talk about the verb agreement with collective nouns.

In case you missed it before, a collective noun is a noun that refers to a group of things (typically people). Army, school, team, and company are all collective nouns, as there is more than one person or thing in these groups.

So if a noun refers to a group of things, how do you get the correct verb agreement with collective nouns?

Verb agreement with collective nouns

When it comes to collective nouns, verb agreement is actually much more simple than you may think.

A singular collective noun will take a singular verb, and a plural collective noun will take a plural verb.

For example, take the word family. Family is a collective noun, as it refers to a group of people. If I were to talk about my family, I would do so like this:

  • My family enjoys going on vacation.

Enjoys is a singular verb, which agrees with the singular form of family.

However, if I was going to talk about more than one family, I would do it like so:

  • Many families enjoy going on vacation in the summer.

Here, enjoy is a plural verb that agrees with the plural form, families.

Take a look at these examples, too:

  • The orchestra comes here often.
  • The team celebrates together when they win.
  • A school of fish moves as a group.
  • The herd of sheep was very calm.

Seems simple enough so far, right?

Exceptions to the rule

It is English, after all, so there are almost always going to be exceptions to the rule.

If you are talking about members of a group (collective noun) doing something as an individual, you also use the plural verb for agreement. This is because some or all of the group members are acting as individuals, instead of as one unit.

For example:

  • The orchestra members are tuning their instruments.

In this case, the group members are all doing the same thing at the same time, but in different ways. They’re not acting as a unit, but as individuals within a group.

Hint: the word “members” in a sentence is a good giveaway that you need the plural verb for the singular collective noun!

Here are a few more examples:

  • Some soldiers of the army were highly decorated.
  • The cast members have been practicing their lines every day.
  • Members of Congress are in disagreement as to what to do.

Now it’s time for you to try it for yourself! Why not write a few example sentences, and let us know how you found it in the comments? As with everything in English, practice makes perfect when it comes to verb agreement with collective nouns!

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Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, blogger, yoga instructor, and has often had to yell at her computer for inserting that horrible green grammar line under her verb when she KNOWS it’s correct!  

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