Four writing prompts: Enigma
Four Myths About Self-Publishing

Collective nouns and pronoun agreement, oh my!

Among the 240_F_126397179_kgtt8l57fqufd99su7PvmANXdP4rb4tBmany confusing aspects of the English language is pronoun agreement with nouns that refer to a group or an object consisting of several members. Known as collective nouns, words like army, committee, faculty, school and team, seem to refer to more than one person or object.

A collective noun, however, actually is an “individual” of sorts, as it typically shows members of that group working in unison or as a lone, single entity.

Given this, collective nouns usually are singular, meaning they require a singular pronoun. Hence, we would say…

The team took the field, determined to win its final game.


The team took the field, determined to win their final game.

Sometimes, however, sentences are constructed in such a way that a collective noun does require a plural pronoun. That occurs when the members of the group each perform different actions or take on different responsibilities. To wit:

The marching band took their seats in the stands, brass in one row, drums above them, wind instruments in the front.

There is a trick you can use to ensure the right pronoun is used. Simply add “members” to the collective noun. Members is a plural noun that requires a plural pronoun. So the previous sentence could be written as:

Members of the marching band took their seats in the stands, brass in one row, drums above them, wind instruments in the front.

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