Collective Nouns and Pronouns
English nouns are either countable or uncountable. Count nouns change in their plural forms by adding "s", while non-count nouns do not.
Non-count nouns already refer to an entire group that is composed of various individual parts, so no “s” is added to create a plural form. A few examples are information, furniture, rice, homework and coffee.
Non-count nouns always take singular verbs, as in the following example sentence.
The information in this pamphlet is useful for tourists.
(noncount noun + singular verb)
Like non-count nouns, collective nouns also refer to entire groups. Sometimes they refer to groups of people. Examples of this type of collective noun are: crowd, government, team, family, audience, committee, gang, staff, band, orchestra, choir and police.
Collective nouns can also refer to things. Examples are pair, bundle, and bunch.
Finally, collective nouns can refer to animals, birds, fish or insects. Some examples of this type are: pride (for lions), bed (for clams or oysters), flock (for birds or sheep), and swarm (for bees or locusts).
When a collective noun refers to a collection of some sort consisting of different individuals or parts, it is replaced by a plural pronoun that takes a plural verb, as in this example.
The coach is pleased with the team because they are doing well.
(Collective noun “team” replaced by “they” + plural verb)
On the other hand, collective nouns that refer to solitary, impersonal groups or units, are replaced by the singular, impersonal “it”, as in the following example. Therefore, when replacing collective nouns with pronouns, it is important to know whether you are talking about the group as a whole, or to its individual parts.
The team is not doing well this season. It has lost three games in a row.
Note: Only singular determiners (words that help define a noun, such as his, her, their, a, an, the, this, these, that, those) are used with singular, collective nouns. Study the example below.
This gang is responsible for a number of recent car thefts. Correct!
These gang is reponsible for a number of recent car thefts. Incorrect!