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COLLECTIVE NOUN, also collective. A NOUN referring to a group of people, animals, or things, and occurring in the singular with a singular or plural verb: army, couple, family, government, group. The plural use (The majority are in favour) is commoner and more acceptable in BrE than AmE, where the singular form (The majority is in favour) is preferred. The choice of singular or plural verb depends on whether the group is seen as a unit or as a group of entities. Cooccurring possessives and pronouns differ accordingly: I was impressed by the audience, which was a distinguished one. I was impressed by the audience, who were all in their seats by 7.30. When plural, collectives follow normal rules of concord: The audiences this week have been small but appreciative. Names of countries can be used as collective nouns for sports teams, in such headlines as Pakistan build up a substantial lead, England look in good shape for Santander. See SYNECDOCHE. Collective nouns are sometimes called group nouns and the collective label is sometimes applied to plural-only words such as cattle, clothes, people, police, although these are not collective nouns as such. There are many collectives in popular and technical use for naming groups of people, animals, or things. Some are familiar to most people, such as a bench of magistrates, a flight of stairs, a flock of sheep, a swarm of bees; others are less well known (and of uncertain provenance), such as an exaltation of larks and an unkindness of ravens.
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