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Collective & Compound Nouns


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This is another part of the series on "Nouns". This is all about compound and collective nouns. This is good for in class use or at your home. It has exercises to go along and work sheets the you can download also.

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Collective & Compound Nouns

  1. 1. Nouns Collective & Compound
  2. 2. Collective Nouns Compound Nouns
  3. 3. Collective nouns name a group or collection of people or things that are taken together and spoken of as one whole. The big question with collective nouns is whether they should be treated as singular or plural. The answer is: They can be treated as singular or plural depending on the sense of your sentence. This is covered in more depth in the lesson Collective Nouns – Singular or Plural? and in the Beware section on the right of this page. Collective Nouns
  4. 4. Collective Noun Singular or Plural? A collective noun can be singular or plural depending on the sense of the sentence. In the first example below, the shoal is considered as one unit. Therefore, shoal is considered singular. However, in the second example, the shoal is considered as lots of individuals, and shoal is considered plural. Examples: The shoal was moving north. (singular – considered as one unit) The shoal were darting in all directions. (plural – considered as individuals) As far as I am concerned, Marylebone Cricket Club still has nineteenth- century values and standards.
  5. 5. Add a Word to Avoid the Issue To simplify matters, a word for the individuals within the group can be introduced. In the first example below, it is necessary to decide whether the collective noun jury should be singular or plural. However, by adding members of, you are forced to use a plural verb. Examples: The jury is/are to convene at 4 o'clock. (A decision is required: Is jury singular or plural?) The members of the jury are to convene at 4 o'clock. (no decision required – the word members is plural) A complete list of collective nouns can be found here. Or list-docx-21k?da=y
  6. 6. Try the quiz on the next few slides. It is good practice for you or your students. Choose the correct collective noun some could have 2 possible answers. So becareful. * Description/Instructions A collective noun names a group of people, animals, or things. The whole group is one unit even though you could count the individual members of the group. A collective noun takes a singular verb.
  7. 7. 1. The jury took a long time to reach a verdict. A: jury B: time C: verdict 2. The army was on the march for several days. A: march B: army C: days Check Answer Next
  8. 8. 3. The audience rose and applauded the performance. A: performance B: audience 4. The band played five numbers before they took a break. A: break B: numbers C: band 5. The team played as hard as they could, but they just couldn't score a goal. A: goal B: team Check Answer Next
  9. 9. 6. A majority of the students in Ms. Baker's class got on the honor roll. A: students B: class C: roll D: majority 7. The cast had a party after the show was over. A: party B: cast C: show 8. The company laid off a lot of workers, including my dad. A: dad B: company C: workers Check Answer Next
  10. 10. 9. That gang is trying to get Josh to join, but he doesn't want to be a part of it. A: gang B: Josh C: part 10. The school choir performed at the all-city talent show. A: show B: choir 11. Miranda's family is going to Disneyland this summer. A: summer B: Disneyland C: family Check Answer Next
  11. 11. 12. The whole school is attending an assembly right now. A: school B: assembly 13. The senate will be voting on the education bill tomorrow. A: bill B: senate 14. There will be two new teachers on the faculty next year. A: year B: faculty C: teachers 15. The flock of sheep scattered when a wolf entered their pasture. A: sheep B: flock C: pasture D: wolf Check Answer Next
  12. 12. Compound Nouns A compound noun is a noun that is made with two or more words. A compound noun is usually [noun + noun] or [adjective + noun], but there are other combinations (see below). It is important to understand and recognize compound nouns. Each compound noun acts as a single unit and can be modified by adjectives and other nouns.
  13. 13. Single word open Pro- nunciation Plural Forms Exercise British American hyphenated Compound Nouns
  14. 14. Single Word Some compound nouns are single words. For example: noun-noun compound: tooth + paste → toothpaste noun-noun compound: day + dream → daydream adjective-noun compound: black + bird → blackbird verb-noun compound: wash + room → washroom noun-verb compound: breast + feeding → breastfeeding adjective-verb compound: high + light → highlight verb-preposition compound: break + up → breakup preposition-verb compound: out + break → outbreak
  15. 15. Open Some compound nouns are multiple word noun phrases. The word or words that precedes or follows the noun functioning as the noun phrase head functions as a noun phrase modifier or a noun phrase complement. For example: table cloth lawn tennis piano player post office swimming pool air-raid siren secretary of state Queen of England Multiple word compound nouns are noun phrases rather than true nouns.
  16. 16. Hyphenated Other compound nouns are single words that contain hyphens. For example: mother-in-law commander-in-chief cul-de-sac master-at-arms jack-in-the-box free-for-all six-pack single-mindedness
  17. 17. Use a Hyphen to Eliminate Ambiguity There are no specific rules on forming compound nouns. For example, ink-well can be also be written ink well or inkwell – all are correct spellings. However, you should use a hyphen to eliminate ambiguity. Ambiguity is particularly prevalent when the first word of the pairing is a substance (like water or ink). Examples: water-bottle / water bottle (When the first word is a substance, a hyphen is used to show that the item is not made of that substance.) ice-axe / ice axe (Both are acceptable, but ice-axe makes it clear that the axe is not made of ice.)
  18. 18. paper-clip / paper clip / paperclip (All 3 are acceptable. However, if the clip were made of paper, then only paper clip could be used.) Please could you pass me that plastic wire-fastener? (a fastener made of plastic, i.e., not wire) There is also some ambiguity when the first word of the pairing ends ing. (This is called a present participle.) Examples: changing-room / changing room (Both are acceptable, but changing-room makes it clear that the room is not changing.) laughing-gas / laughing gas (Both are acceptable, but laughing-gas makes it clear that the gas is not laughing.)
  19. 19. NOT ALL HAVE A ONE-WORD VERSION Be aware that not all compound nouns have a one-word version. Even though inkwell and paperclip are fine, iceaxe and waterbottle are spelling mistakes. There are no rules governing this – you have to know.
  20. 20. Pronunciation Compound nouns tend to have more stress on the first word. In the phrase "pink ball", both words are equally stressed (as you know, adjectives and nouns are always stressed). In the compound noun "golf ball", the first word is stressed more (even though both words are nouns, and nouns are always stressed). Since "golf ball" is a compound noun we consider it as a single noun and so it has a single main stress - on the first word. Stress is important in compound nouns. For example, it helps us know if somebody said "a GREEN HOUSE" (a house which is painted green) or "a GREENhouse" (a building made of glass for growing plants inside).
  21. 21. British / American differences Different varieties of English, and even different writers, may use the open, hyphenated or closed form for the same compound noun. It is partly a matter of style. There are no definite rules. For example we can find: container ship container-ship containership If you are not sure which form to use, please check in a good dictionary. My recommendations:
  22. 22. Here are some examples of compound nouns: noun + noun bus stop Is this the bus stop for the number 12 bus? fire-fly In the tropics you can see fire-flies at night. football Shall we play football today? adjective + noun full moon I always feel crazy at full moon. blackboard Clean the blackboard please. software I can't install this software on my PC. verb(-ing) + noun breakfast We always eat breakfast at 8am. washing machine Put the clothes in the red washing machine. swimming pool What a beautiful swimming pool! noun + verb(-ing) sunrise I like to get up at sunrise. haircut You need a haircut. train-spotting His hobby is train-spotting. verb + preposition check-out Please remember that check-out is at 12 noon. noun + prepositional phrase mother-in-law My mother-in-law lives with us. preposition + noun underworld Do you think the police accept money from the underworld? noun + adjective truckfull We need 10 truckfulls of bricks.
  23. 23. Plural Forms of Compound Nouns In general we make the plural of a compound noun by adding -s to the "base word" (the most "significant" word). Look at these examples: singular plural a tennis shoe three tennis shoes one assistant headmaster five assistant headmasters the sergeant major some sergeants major a mother-in-law two mothers-in-law an assistant secretary of state three assistant secretaries of state my toothbrush our toothbrushes a woman-doctor four women-doctors a doctor of philosophy two doctors of philosophy a passerby, a passer-by two passersby, two passers-by
  24. 24. Note that there is some variation with words like spoonful or truckful. The old style was to say spoonsful or trucksful for the plural. Today it is more usual to say spoonfuls or truckfuls. Both the old style (spoonsful) and the new style (spoonfuls) are normally acceptable, but you should be consistent in your choice. Here are some examples: old style plural (very formal) new style plural teaspoonful 3 teaspoonsful of sugar 3 teaspoonfuls of sugar truckful 5 trucksful of sand 5 truckfuls of sand bucketful 2 bucketsful of water 2 bucketfuls of water cupful 4 cupsful of rice 4 cupfuls of rice
  25. 25. Some compound nouns have no obvious base word and you may need to consult a dictionary to find the plural: higher-ups also-rans go-betweens has-beens good-for-nothings grown-ups
  26. 26. Note that with compound nouns made of [noun + noun] the first noun is like an adjective and therefore does not usually take an -s. A tree that has apples has many apples, but we say an apple tree, not apples tree; matchbox not matchesbox; toothbrush not teethbrush. With compound nouns made of [noun + noun] the second noun takes an -s for plural. The first noun acts like an adjective and as you know, adjectives in English are invariable. Look at these examples: long plural form becomes › plural compound noun [noun + noun] 100 trees with apples 100 apple trees 1,000 cables for telephones 1,000 telephone cables 20 boxes for tools 20 tool boxes 10 stops for buses 10 bus stops 4,000 wheels for cars 4,000 car wheels
  27. 27. Compound Nouns Quiz Using compound nouns, can you shorten the following phrases? 1. a room for stores 2. a tape for measuring up to 300 cms 3. the assistant manager of the restaurant a storeroom
  28. 28. 4. a station for express trains 5. size of cables 6. reduction in cost
  29. 29. 7. two periods of three months 8. plugs with 3 pins 9. two steel boxes for the tools 10. the husband of my daughter
  30. 30. The link below is to some worksheets that you can use for class work, home work, or for yourself. Collective & Compound Nouns Work Sheets compound-nouns-worksheets-zip-1-6-meg?da=y
  31. 31. Any questions, comments, advice, and / or wishes – you can email me at