Subject-Verb Agreement
Group Nouns

There are many English words that are used to name a group of
people or things as a unit. Some common group nouns:
committee, band, herd, team.
Ordinarily, group nouns are used to describe a number of people
or things as a whole and require a third-person singular verb. In
the picture to the right is a shepherd with a flock of sheep.

The flock is traveling with the shepherd.

In this sentence, the flock is thought of as a group, so the
third-person singular verb is used. The same is true of the
following sentence -

The flock needs to be fed.

Again, the subject of the sentence is the group noun flock which
requires a third-person singular verb.   
As a rule of thumb (translation: a short rule that usually applies),
when a group noun appears in a Praxis I Writing test, it usually
requires a third-person singular verb.      

There are, and you may have discovered this already, exceptions
to almost every English grammar rule. Even though you may not
encounter a group noun that needs a third-person plural verb on
the Writing test, you may wish to use group nouns in your essay.
Please read on to learn about some exceptions to the group
nouns rule.

Sometimes sentences with group nouns as the subject tell about a
collection of people or things engaged in the same or similar
activities individually. In these instances, and third-person plural
verb may be used. As an example:

The shepherd's family hope the flock is healthy.

Even though a family is a group, this sentence describes the
feelings of the individual family members. The third-person verb
have is correct because each of the family is hoping individually.
On the other hand this sentence is also correct:

The shepherd's family hopes the flock is healthy.

In this sentence, the third-person singular verb is used to indicate
that the family is hoping as a whole.
These exceptions occur most often when a group noun that
indicates amount is used.  If the subject of the sentence refers to
an amount or group as a whole unit (a specific number) it
requires a third-person singular verb.

A dozen is a good size for a  flock.
The majority of the flock is female.

However, if the subjects of the sentence are doing the same thing
individually or at different times a third-person plural verb should
be used.

A dozen are being sheared tomorrow.
The majority are walking behind the shepherd.

The sheep will each be sheared individually, and they are all
walking at an individual pace; thus, the group nouns in these
sentences require plural nouns.

There is a fairly simple rule for determining which verb-person to
use after the word
number when it is used as a group noun. See if
you can discover it as you consider the next two examples.

A number of sheep are in the picture.
The number of sheep in the flock is hard to determine.

In the first sentence, number is preceded by the indefinite article  
a. The words a number followed by a prepositional phrase mean
many; many used as an adjective modifies plural nouns. Plural
nouns require plural verbs.
In the second sentence,
number is preceded by the definite article
the. These two words together indicate a specific number or
A rule of thumb for deciding which verb-person to use with the
number: if it is preceded by the indefinite article, a, it means
many and takes a third-person plural verb; if it is preceded by the
definite article
the it means a specific number or amount - like
seven, or two pounds - and takes a third-person singular verb.
Which forms of the verb
to be would you use in the following

A number of sheep ____ walking with the shepherd; the
number ____ not large.
For more on
agreement visit
Capital City College's
Guide to Writing and
Common Group
Nouns - Things
array, assortment,
batch, battery,
bunch, bundle,
canon, collection,
fleet, handful,
medley, pair, variety
The flock follows the
shepherd whenever
he calls them.
Common Group
Nouns - Animals
drove, flock, herd,
litter, pack, pod,
pride, school, swarm,
Common Group
Nouns - People
audience, band, cast,
chorus, club,
committee, company,
couple, crowd, duo,
family, firm,
government,  jury,
mob, panel, party,
public, quartet, squad,
team, troop, troupe,
The shepherd's
family lives in this
Please don't be
Sentences like these
to the right are too
ambiguous to appear
in Praxis I. If you
come across a group
noun on the test,  
you may safely
presume that the
noun requires a
singular verb.
The shepherd's
family live in
different parts of
the village.
A group considered
as a whole takes a
third-person singular
noun. A group
considered as
individuals takes a
third-person plural
A couple is
watching the
shepherd from the
Common Group
Nouns - Amounts
couple, dozen,  half,
majority, minority,
number, quarter,
quintet, trio
A couple of sheep
are ahead of the
a number = many
A number of people
are shepherds.
the number = a
specific amount
The number of
shepherds in this
village is high.
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