Module 4, Verbs: Agreement and Challenges, Lesson 3:

Agreement: Collective Nouns


Collective nouns name a group, so it can be difficult to tell whether to use a singular or plural verb. In American English, these nouns are typically singular, but sometimes they can be plural if you're referring to the individuals in the group rather than the group as a whole.

When the group acts as a whole, use a singular verb.

My family is going to Germany for Christmas.
The whole family is acting as one group. They're all going to Germany together at the same time.

When the members of the group act as individuals, use a plural verb.

My family usually buy their clothes at Jerry's Fine Fashions.
The individual family members are acting separately. They all buy their own clothes at different times.
Pay attention to your pronouns, too. If you use a singular verb, use a singular pronoun; if you use a plural verb, use a plural pronoun. Let's take another look at our second example above.
My family usually buy their clothes at Jerry's Fine Fashions.

Notice how both buy and their are plural. It would be incorrect to say My family buy its clothes or My family buys their clothes.

Practice What You've Learned

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Choose the correct verb to complete the sentence.
The buffalo herd is/are grazing in the meadow.
The fleet of fishing boats is/are staying in port today because of the storm.
The audience has/have all taken their seats.
The crew was/were eating their lunches in the shade.
A swarm of bees is/are heading toward the lake.
The flock of geese has/have been swimming in the pond all day.
Our team has/have won six championships.
The high school baseball team usually buys/buy their uniforms at Dick's Sporting Goods.
An angry mob is/are rushing the stage.
Each member of the choir sings/sing his or her own part.