fbpx

Need help submitting your writing to literary journals or book publishers/literary agents? Click here! →

Collective Nouns: Pairing Verbs With Difficult Nouns

A collective noun refers to a group of people or things, such as “family” or “flock.” It can be confusing to determine if the noun should function as singular or plural when trying to match a verb with it, so let’s break it down. Learning how to make your collective nouns agree with verbs is important to writing proper sentences.

SINGULAR COLLECTIVE NOUNS:

Mathematics is my favorite subject.

The mob was rounding the corner.

A pair of scissors is on the kitchen counter.

PLURAL COLLECTIVE NOUNS:

Where are my scissors?

The headquarters are located in Boise, Idaho.

EITHER WAY:

Many collective nouns can either be singular or plural, depending on their context, and here is where the confusion often lies.

Submit to Review Board

For example:

The jury have mixed feelings about the prosecutor’s cross-examination. (Where the individual members have differing emotions.)

The jury is sequestered. (Where the jury is a single entity.)

The staff is waiting in the conference room. (Single entity.)

The staff have special qualifications for this project. (Referring to individual members of the staff.)

My family is very dysfunctional. (Referring to the family as a unit.)

My family have always been proud of me. (Referring to the family members individually.)

Reverend Smith’s flock is very devout. (Single entity.)

Reverend Smith’s flock are always competing with each other. (Individual members are competing with each other.)

The distinctions between singular and plural usage can be pretty subtle. Your job is to decide if you want to focus on the individual or the whole, and match your verbs accordingly. As always, once you’ve made your decision, stay consistent.

Writer’s Relief proofreaders are here to help you with your books, stories, poems, essays, and novels. We’ve been helping writers submit their work to literary agents and editors since 1994. Contact us for more information about how we can help you!

2 Responses to Collective Nouns: Pairing Verbs With Difficult Nouns

  1. Hello En Heim,

    According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “Headquarters” is a noun plural but singular or plural in construction. The definition for Headquarters is: a place from which something is controlled or directed. Headquarters can be used as a singular or a plural in writing and speaking. Examples: Company headquarters is in Chicago. Or: Where are the campaign headquarters?

  2. Your statement under Plural: The headquarters are located in Boise, Idaho.

    Isn’t HEADQUARTERS a single unit, referring to a group like FAMILY, MATHEMATICS?

    One does not say: The Headquarter is located…

    Explain to me why HEADQUARTERS is plural and uses ARE.

Leave a reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.



YES, IT'S MY LUCKY DAY!
Sign me up for
FREE Publishing Leads & Tips
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

WHY? Because our insider
know-how has helped
writers get over 18,000+ acceptances.

FREE Publishing Leads and Tips! Our e-publication, Submit Write Now!, delivered weekly to your inbox.
 
  • BEST (and proven) submission tips
  • Hot publishing leads
  • Calls to submit
  • Contest alerts
  • Notification of industry changes
  • And much more!
close-link


STOP! BEFORE YOU GO...
Sign me up for
FREE Publishing Leads & Tips
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

WHY? Because our insider
know-how has helped
writers get over 18,000+ acceptances.

FREE Publishing Leads and Tips! Our e-publication, Submit Write Now!, delivered weekly to your inbox.
 
  • BEST (and proven) submission tips
  • Hot publishing leads
  • Calls to submit
  • Contest alerts
  • Notification of industry changes
  • And much more!
close-link
Yes! Send My Free Guide!

Get Your FREE Goal-Oriented
Writer Guide!

We’ll send the link to this handy guide filled with
expert advice and smart tips so you can start
reaching your writing goals today!

 
Bonus: Stay updated! We’ll email you weekly links
to more great articles featuring the best writing
strategies and insider info!
close-link
Yes! Send My Free Guide!

Get Your FREE Goal-Oriented
Writer Guide!

We’ll send the link to this handy guide filled with
expert advice and smart tips so you can start
reaching your writing goals today!

 
Bonus: Stay updated! We’ll email you weekly links
to more great articles featuring the best writing
strategies and insider info!
close-link
Live Chat Software