I wondered that "a flock of birds" is always followed by a singular verb and "flocks of birds" is always followed by a plural verb. Please help me make this confusion crystal clear. Thanks so much!


"A flock of birds" is a singular noun. It is one flock, so it takes singular forms of any verbs.

"Flocks of birds" is a plural noun. There are many flocks, so it takes plural forms of any verbs.

There is nothing that needs to be confusing.

  • 1
    Singular/plural agreement is only a feature of the third person in the present tense. And many English speakers follow a sg/pl rule that agrees with the last noun phrase before the auxiliary, instead of agreeing with the number of the quantifier. This already happened with lot -- a lot of people are coming, not is coming. – John Lawler Feb 25 '19 at 4:06
  • Agreed, but JL's comment seems odd. "Flock" is a collective noun, not a quantificational one like "lot" , "number" and "couple". With "flock" it's the head (i.e. "flock" or "flocks") of the NP that determines the verb form, not the noun that is complement to "of", hence "a flock of birds was seen" ~ "flocks of birds were seen". With singular "flock", plural override is possible: "A flock of birds was/were seen". – BillJ Feb 25 '19 at 8:21

It depends largely on context being American or British English. From this link, third bullet under the "But!" section:

American English versus British English differ. In British English, most collective nouns can be treated as singular or plural depending on context (e.g., one could say “the whole family was at the table” or “the family were opposed to the idea.”) American English tends to construe collective nouns as singular.

Several times I've heard British speakers say things like, "The crowd are loving it!" or "The family go to the beach every summer," although in America we would normally say "The crowd is loving it!" or "The family goes to the beach every summer."

The same seems to apply to any collective noun, including "flock."

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