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A Murder of Crows… and Other Unusual Collective Nouns

As I’m sure you already know, when you’re talking about just one of something in English, you always use the definite article (the) or indefinite article (a or an). The definite article is used when you are talking about a particular thing – for example, if you say, “shall we go to the pub?” you’re talking about one pub in particular. On the other hand, if you say “shall we go to a pub?” you could be talking about any pub.

But what happens if you’re talking about a group, rather than just one thing? Yes, you can turn a word from singular into plural by adding ‘s’ onto the end – for example: one dog, two dogs. This is easy to use with the definite article, for example: I fed the dogs. However, if you want to use the indefinite article, you need to know how to refer to a group of those things.

In many cases, you can actually use a standard term like group to explain that there were many, rather than one. For example: a group of people. The person you are talking to will be able to work out what you mean.

However, different types of animals or items have different words for a group. These are called collective nouns.

Below are some common examples.

Collective nouns for groups of people:

  • A team of players (you can also just say “a team”)
  • A class of students (you can also say “a class”)
  • A band of musicians (you can also say “a band”)
  • A choir of singers (you can also say “a choir”)
  • A crowd of people (you can also say “a crowd”)
  • A board of directors
  • A gang / a pack of thieves
  • A panel of experts
  • A troupe of dancers (you could also say “a dance troupe”)
  • A crew of technicians (for example, you might say “a TV crew” or “a film crew”)

Collective nouns for groups of animals:

  • A flock of birds or sheep
  • A herd of cows or deer
  • A pack of dogs or wolves
  • A school or shoal of fish
  • A swarm of bees or insects
  • A litter of puppies or kittens
  • An army of ants
  • A pride of lions
  • A team of horses
  • A pod of dolphins or whales

Collective nouns for other groups of things:

  • A bouquet or a bunch of flowers
  • A pack of cards
  • A fleet of ships, taxis or cars (but only if they are all belong to the same person or company!)
  • A forest of trees (you can also just say “a forest”)
  • A galaxy of stars (you can also just say “a galaxy”)
  • A pair of shoes
  • A wad of cash, notes, paper or receipts
  • A pack of lies
  • A range of mountains (you can also say “a mountain range”

All of the examples used above are used a lot in everyday speech. Some collective nouns are rarer or very old and even some English speakers don’t know them! If you really want to impress people, here are some interesting and unusual collective nouns that you won’t hear as often:

  • A murder of crows
  • A cloud of jellyfish
  • A glaring of cats
  • A flurry of flamingos
  • A pandemonium of parrots
  • A tower of giraffes
  • A shadow of jaguars
  • A parade of elephants
  • A bloat of hippopotamuses
  • A cackle of hyenas

… You might not have many chances to use these collective nouns in conversation, but some of them are quite poetic, don’t you think?

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