Nouns

Definition

A noun is a word which names something. ‘Noun’ comes from the Latin word ‘nomen’ meaning name. It can refer to something that is concrete or material, meaning it can be seen, or it may be abstract, naming something that is not visible or tangible. Here are some examples:

People – Henry, Tobias, Ben, Sarah

An occupation - teacher, plumber, athlete

A place - London, Wellington, Tehran, Tel Aviv

A thing - glass, knife, pool, tree, towel

An animal – cat, dog, monkey, rhinoceros.

A feeling, idea or quality – weakness, strength, joy, fear, annoyance, wisdom, patience.

Some short sentence examples:

My neighbour, Ben Davies, is a plumber.

I love visiting The Louvre in Paris.

My cat brings me joy.

Types of Nouns

Now, let’s look at the different sorts of nouns.

  • Common noun

  • Proper noun

  • Concrete (material) noun

  • Abstract noun

  • Countable noun

  • Uncountable noun

  • Possessive noun

  • Compound noun

  • Feminine/Masculine nouns

  • Collective noun

Common Nouns

Common nouns are words that name people, animals, places and things. They are common, or general names, and are not given capital letters. For example: man, cleaner, bird, cake, phone, television. They can have an article preceding them (a, an, the).

Examples of common nouns in sentences:

I live in the city and, most days, I take a bus. Note: We wouldn’t write “I live in city” or “I take bus”.

Joanne bakes dinner for her family. Note: sometimes, in English, the article is not necessary, or is optional.

People enjoy eating cakes.

eAngel English Grammar Nouns

Proper Nouns

Proper nouns refer to the names of people, places, days of the week, month or special events. They are always capitalized.

Her name is Andrea and she comes from Spain.

She studies at Massey University.

I love visiting the Taj Mahal.

The family celebrates New Year’s Eve which is on Monday this year.

Have you seen the River Nile?

Sometimes, a word can be either a proper noun or a common noun. A good example is the word ‘government’. If you are referring to a particular government, such as the Australian Government, it has a capital letter. If you are talking about governments in general, then no capital letter is used.

He is working for the NZ Government.

A government is a group of people with authority over a state or country.

Concrete Nouns

Remember – concrete nouns refer to material objects, places and so forth.

Tree, boy, street, meal.

Abstract Nouns

Abstract nouns relate to ideas, qualities and feelings.

Fear, embarrassment, fun, attitude, weakness.

Countable Nouns

These can be singular or plural and are things that we can count.

Book, toy, plate, chair, painting.

When the word is plural, it can be used on its own, as follows:

I have friends.

Trees are beautiful.

Words such as ‘few’, ‘some’, ‘many’ and ‘any’ can be used with countable nouns. Numbers are also used. For example:

Here are a few pens and some books.

He owns many houses. Do you have any houses?

Jane has two cats and one horse.

Uncountable Nouns

These nouns relate to things that are not able to be counted.

They can relate to abstract ideas, or to material things which cannot be counted.

For example: drama, art, honey, information, electricity, money.

You cannot use a number in front of these nouns, however, you can use words like ‘some’, ‘little’, ‘much’, ‘any’. For example:

I enjoy a little honey on my toast.

Do you have any rice in your pantry?

There has been some news about the storm.

When you are giving a measure, you cannot say, for example, I like two honeys on my toast. What you can say is: I like two teaspoons of honey on my toast. It requires a number, a measure, the word ‘of’ and the uncountable noun.

Another example:

Several pieces of pottery.

Three bags of pasta.

There are several nouns which can be either countable or uncountable. For example, hair, noise, room.

He found four hairs in his mug. She does not have any hair.

I heard a noise. I do not like noise when I am studying.

There are four rooms in the cottage. There is not much room in this cupboard.

Possessive Nouns

A possessive noun has something/owns something, and requires an apostrophe. The position of the apostrophe shows whether the noun is singular or plural.

The man’s hat; the girl’s dog.

Five years’ experience.

Twenty writers’ articles.

There are also plural nouns, such as children and people, and the apostrophe goes before the ‘s’.

The people’s opinions.

The children’s toys.

The crowd’s cheers.

Compound Nouns

These nouns are made up of two or more words and are sometimes hyphenated. For example:

The sunset is beautiful.

The children are playing with a go-kart.

I love my daughter-in-law.

He enjoys going to the swimming pool.

Masculine and Feminine Nouns (relate to gender)

Examples of masculine nouns include: father, uncle, brother, son, king.

Examples of feminine nouns: aunt, mother, sister, daughter, queen.

Examples of gender-neutral nouns are: parent, child, sibling, cousin.

Collective Nouns

These nouns refer to groups of people, animals and things.

Here are some common words which are used for particular groups of people.

A class of students.

A gang of thieves.

An army of soldiers.

A troop of scouts.

Note that these collective nouns can also be used on their own, for example:

The hockey team won the game.

The council is going to improve the drainage.

The class is getting noisy.

The crowd was out of control.

Some animal collective nouns:

A herd of cattle.

A flock of sheep.

A swarm of bees.

A gaggle of geese.

A pod of dolphins.

Collective nouns for a group of things:

A bunch of bananas.

A book of stories.

A collection of stamps.

A pile of shoes.

I enjoy collective nouns and sometimes create a collective noun of my own. For example, by using alliteration (the same first letter of each word), you can think up some fun nouns. For example:

There was a swarm of solicitors at court today.

It is fascinating to look up collective nouns, particularly those relating to animals. Have a look online and see what you can find.

Using Nouns – key points

We have covered the various types of nouns and now we will look briefly at some other points about their use.

Plural

In English, we normally add ‘s’ , ‘es’ or ‘ies’ to make the noun plural.

For example:

The teachers read some stories to the children.

After morning classes were over, five boys and two girls played a few games.

Which one is right in the following sentence:

The doges chased the ball. The dogies chased the ball. The dogs chased the ball. Yes, it is ‘dogs’.

Subject, object and indirect object

Subjects and objects have opposite functions in a sentence. The subject is the 'doer' of the action. For example, take the sentence “The man swings a golf club.” Here, the subject is the noun 'man'. Objects are the opposite; they are acted upon. Here, the object is the golf club.

In the sentence “She gave a toy to the girl” the girl is the indirect object. The girl (indirect object) receives the toy (object). The indirect object is the recipient of the object.

Have a look at our next article about adjectives.

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