A collective noun refers to a collection of people or things as a single unit.
Some things have specific collective nouns.
Common collective nouns:
- a deck of cards, pack of cards
- a bunch of grapes
- a wealth of information
Collective nouns for animals:
- a pack of dogs/wolves/coyotes
- a herd of cattle/buffalo/elephants/horses
- a flock of sheep/birds/ducks/geese
For subject-verb agreement, the verb agrees with the collective noun.
- Those people are sightseeing. (People is the subject, people is plural.)
- That group is sightseeing. (Group is the subject, group is singular.)
- That group of people is sightseeing. (Group is the subject, group is singular.)
- There are snacks on the table. (Snacks is the subject, snacks is plural.)
- There is a pile on the table. (Pile is the subject, pile is singular.)
- There is a pile of snacks on the table. (Pile is the subject, pile is singular.)
Collective nouns can be singular or plural.
- A pack of cards is on the desk. (Pack is the subject, pack is singular.)
- Two packs of cards are on the desk. (Packs is the subject, packs is plural.)
But… is it in reference to a group or the individuals in a group?
Sometimes the verb is plural because the collective noun is referring to the individuals in the group, not the group in its entirety.
As a group
- The team is busy working on its project.
- The team are busy working on their own projects.
Another tricky one: Bunch.
When “bunch” is referring to a group as a whole (i.e. as one thing), it’s singular, so the verb is singular.
- This bunch of grapes looks delicious, but that bunch needs to be washed.
But if “a bunch” means “many,” it’s plural, so the verb is also plural.
- Many people are playing soccer. A bunch of people are playing soccer.
- Many grapes are scattered on the table. A bunch of grapes are scattered on the table.