Do you have questions about nouns and their uses? If so, this ultimate grammar guide to nouns in English has the answers you need. In this article, we are going to be taking a close look at what a noun is, how it is used, and the rules surrounding its use. Explore the list of different types of nouns and how to use them correctly with examples. Check out a list of common grammar mistakes to avoid making these errors in the future. Finally, the quiz below will test your noun knowledge.
What Is A Noun?
In order to understand what a noun is, the most simple explanation is that a noun is a part of speech typically denoting a person, place, thing, animal, or idea. In every sentence in English, there must be a subject and that subject will most likely be a noun. However, the noun can also play other parts within a sentence such as the indirect or direct object, object or subject complement, adjective, or appositive, and more. This means that every sentence you create will likely feature a noun, making this one of the most important aspects of English grammar.
Common Examples of Nouns
As we mentioned earlier, the noun can be used to name a variety of different things. Let’s take a look a this.
Examples of Nouns to Name a Person
- The prime minister
- My sister
- A boy
- Barack Obama
Examples of Nouns to Name a Place
- The beach
- Mount Everest
- My kitchen
Examples of Nouns to Name a Thing
- An idea
- The dog
- My plate
- The movie
Using a Noun in English Grammar
Using a Noun as a Subject or an Object
Each sentence that we speak or write must feature a subject and this will always be a noun. When we talk about the subject, we are referring to the place, person, or thing which is completing the action (verb) within the sentence. Look at the following examples:
- John is tall.
- The ball bounced.
John and the ball are the subjects of these sentences and are both nouns.
However, the noun can also be used as the object of a sentence. This can be either as a direct object, which is the noun that is on the receiving end of the action that was performed by the subject, or as an indirect object which is a noun that is a recipient of the direct object. Let’s take a look at some examples of this.
- Hand the bags to him.
- Move the plate towards the baby.
In this case, the words him and baby are both nouns being used as the object of the sentence.
Nouns Used as Object and Subject Complements
A noun can be used as a subject complement and this usually occurs when using a linking verb such as seem, to be, or become. An example of this is the sentence “John is a builder.” The noun builder is the subject complement as it is detailed what John is.
I need a new toy.
The noun toy is the subject complement as it details what the person needs.
Further Uses of Nouns
There are many more ways in which a noun can function, let’s take a look at some of these now.
- When serving as an appositive noun, the noun will come directly after another noun as a way of defining it further. An example of this can be seen in this sentence, “My mother, Angela, is a nurse.” The noun Angela is the appositive noun as it gives us further information on the first noun, mother.
- A noun may also be used as an adjective in some cases as well. Consider the word “board”. In a general context, this word is a noun. However, in the phrase “board game”, this word functions as an adjective, although its part of speech is still considered a noun.
- When using a possessive noun, in other words, a noun which is used to denote possession of something, an apostrophe should be used. For example, “These are the baby’s things.”
Concrete Nouns Examples
Concrete nouns are people, places, or things that we observe using the five senses. Nouns that we hear, see, taste, touch, or smell belong to this category of nouns. We can subcategorize concrete nouns into 2 types of nouns: proper and common.
When looking at a sentence it is easy to pick out the concrete noun example. For example, She pets the zebra.
A zebra is something that you can touch, see, and hear. It is a common concrete noun.
Below find examples of nouns that are concrete.
Concrete Noun Examples
Examples of Common Nouns and Proper Nouns
Nouns are either common or proper. Common nouns do not refer to a particular person, place, or thing. Common nouns are not capitalized.
In contrast. proper nouns represent specific places, people, and things. You capitalize proper nouns no matter where they appear in a sentence.
An example of a proper noun would be Luke. The name refers to a specific person. In comparison, the common noun boy could refer to any number of males.
Examples of Common Nouns
Examples of Proper Nouns
- Cambridge University
- New York
- the Louvre
- New Zealand
- the Sun
- the Earth
Abstract Nouns Examples
Abstract nouns are the opposite of concrete nouns. They are nouns that you cannot touch, taste, hear, see, or smell. Abstract nouns refer to concepts, ideas, qualities, and feelings that are not tangible.
Sometimes it can be difficult to pick an abstract noun out of a sentence. This happens when a word like love appears in a sentence. Sometimes the word operates as a verb instead of a noun. For example:
- I love my mother.
Love is an action in this sentence so it does not function as an abstract noun.
- Love is kind.
In this sentence love is an intangible thing. Hence, it acts as an abstract noun that you cannot touch.
Some words can have more than one grammatical usage. It is important to pay attention to how a particular word functions in a sentence.
Abstract nouns make communication easier. To create abstract nouns the root word usually needs to change. Specific suffixes point to an abstract noun: -ism, -ment, -ity, -ship, -age, -tion, -ness, and -ability.
Also, abstract nouns can be possessive. They can be singular. They can also be countable or uncountable.
Countable and Uncountable Nouns Examples
Items we count using numbers are countable nouns. These nouns are singular or plural. In the singular, countable nouns use a determiner like a or an. For example:
- I have a dog that smiles.
In the singular form, you can also use the number one.
- I have one dog that smiles.
The plural form uses a variety of different numbers along with the suffix -s or -es in most cases.
- She has three dogs.
If asking about a countable noun you would ask, “how many?”
Countable Noun Examples
In contrast, uncountable nouns usually operate with a singular verb. These nouns can be abstract or physically too small to count. Liquids or powders can be uncountable nouns. Uncountable nouns rarely have plural forms.
To ask about the quantity of an uncountable noun you would ask, “how much?” Uncountable nouns use expressions like some or a little bit. Additionally, these nouns use exact measurements: a cup of, a bag of, and a pinch of for convenience.
Uncountable Noun Examples
Below find examples of how to use an uncountable noun in a sentence.
- I did a little bit of research on the topic.
- I borrowed a bag of flour from my neighbor.
Collective Nouns Examples
A group of people, animals, and things are collective nouns. Some collective nouns are versatile while others are not. For example, swarm typically describes bees and not lions. However, you could deliberately use the wrong collective noun to promote a specific image.
Generally, collective nouns are singular. They are only used in the plural form if they are emphasizing the individual members of a group. To make the plural flow better you can put a phrase like members of in front of the collective term. “The members of congress were sick” may be easier to read than “the congress were sick.”
Note: grammar checking software will most likely want to change were to was. Typically, the software views collective nouns as singular.
- Flock: A flock of birds, a flock of sheep, a flock of geese.
- Group: A group of people, a group of students, a group of animals.
- Committee: A committee of experts, a committee of volunteers, a committee of politicians.
- School: A school of fish, a school of whales, a school of dolphins.
- Choir: A choir of singers, a choir of angels.
- Team: A team of players, a team of workers, a team of scientists.
- Gang: A gang of thieves, a gang of bikers, a gang of friends.
- Band: A band of musicians, a band of rebels, a band of soldiers.
- Herd: A herd of cows, a herd of elephants, a herd of deer.
- Gaggle: A gaggle of geese, a gaggle of girls.
- Litter: A litter of puppies, a litter of kittens, a litter of piglets.
- Swarm: A swarm of bees, a swarm of locusts, a swarm of mosquitoes
Compound Nouns Examples
Two or more words make up a compound noun. Some compound nouns can appear as a single word (closed), a hyphenated phrase, or two separate words (open). There are several different ways to create a compound noun. For example:
- noun + noun (football)
- adjective + noun (whiteboard)
- noun + adjective (handful)
- verb + noun (dining table)
- noun + verb (sunrise)
- verb + preposition (check-out)
- noun + prepositional phrase (brother-in-law)
- preposition + noun (overlord)
Possessive Nouns Examples
Possessive nouns show ownership. A person, place, or thing can have something that belongs to them. Possessive nouns usually form by adding an ‘s to the end of a noun.
- The dog‘s toy showed damage.
- The boy‘s sandwich fell on the ground.
If the noun is plural and ends in s you simply add an apostrophe. If the plural form does not end in s then you add ‘s.
- The girls’ shoes went missing.
- The dogs’ toys went missing.
- The women’s shoes went missing.
Regular Plural Nouns Examples
A regular plural noun uses the suffixes -s and -es to show more than one person, place, or thing.
- cat < cats
- dog < dogs
- fox < foxes
- girl < girls
Irregular Plural Nouns Examples
Irregular plural nouns are plural nouns that are not formed by using the suffixes -s or -es. Instead, irregular plural nouns undergo separate changes.
Examples of nouns ending in -f or -fe
To create the plural form of the word ending in -fe you need to replace the f with v then add -es.
- wife < wives
- life < lives
- leaf < leaves
The words roofs and proofs are exceptions to this pattern.
Examples of nouns ending in -o
To create the plural form of the word ending in -o you need to add -es.
- potato < potatoes
- hero < heroes
- tomato < tomatoes
Exceptions to this pattern exist. Some words ending in -o only need an s to make it plural. Examples include pianos and photos.
Examples of nouns changing vowels
Sometimes vowels change in a word when moving from the singular to the plural tense. To illustrate, oo can change to ee or an can change to en.
- tooth < teeth
- woman < women
Significant spelling changes
Some nouns take on huge spelling changes when forming the plural.
- mouse < mice
- ox < oxen
Plurals that stay the same
We write some nouns the same way whether plural or singular. This includes:
- Fish (when referring to multiple fish of one species, or fish in general)
Nouns that ending in -ex
A noun that ends in -ex usually takes the ending -ice or -xes when forming the plural.
- vortex < vortexes
- index < indices
Gender of Nouns
In the English language, nouns are classified into three gender categories: masculine, feminine, and neuter. This grammatical categorization reflects the biological category of sex of the noun referent, but it is not always directly related to it.
Masculine nouns typically refer to male referents, such as ‘man’, ‘father’, or ‘boy’. Feminine nouns, on the other hand, are used to describe female referents, such as ‘woman’, ‘mother’, or ‘girl’. The neuter category includes nouns that do not have a clear gender or that can refer to objects or ideas, like ‘book’, ‘table’, or ‘happiness’.
It’s important to note that the gender of a noun in English affects the pronouns and possessive determiners used with it. For instance:
- Masculine: The man lost his hat, which he bought recently.
- Feminine: The woman left her purse at home, which she realized later.
- Neuter: The computer was switched off, even though it was in use.
In some cases, there are words in English that can group both feminine and masculine beings together or can refer to either male or female. These are known as common nouns. Examples include ‘parent’, ‘friend’, or ‘doctor’.
Common Mistakes with Nouns
- Changing a word that has the same singular and plural form. (You would not add an -s to words like information or furniture to make it plural.)
- Using a singular noun when you need a plural noun.
- Forgetting to use a determiner (a/an/one) when the noun is in the singular case.
- Interchanging an uncountable noun for a countable one.
- Inconsistent plural/ singular noun usage.
- Mistaking an irregular noun for a regular one.
Circle the correct answer for every question. Which word correctly represents the noun.
- The girls went to the store. (singular or plural)
- I visited my three sisters. (countable or uncountable)
- The underworld grows dark. (uncountable or compound)
- The girls’ dog liked mice. (possessive or regular plural)
- I added a cup of sugar to the mix. (countable or uncountable)
- The muffin was on the counter. (abstract or concrete)
- Fear divides people. (abstract or possessive)
- I do not have dog. (missing determiner or collective)
- A flock of seagulls lived by the bay. (abstract or collective)
- How much tea do you have? (countable or uncountable)
Nouns | Images
List of Nouns – Abstract Nouns Image
Countable and Uncountable Nouns
Forming Possessive Nouns
Gender in English
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the main types of nouns with examples?
There are several types of nouns, including:
- Common nouns: These are general names for people, places, things, or ideas. Examples include “dog,” “city,” and “book.”
- Proper nouns: These are specific names for particular people, places, things, or ideas. Examples include “London,” “Shakespeare,” and “Apple Inc.”
- Abstract nouns: These are nouns that represent intangible things like emotions, concepts, or qualities. Examples include “happiness,” “freedom,” and “beauty.”
- Concrete nouns: These are nouns that represent tangible objects, which can be perceived by the senses. Examples include “house,” “tree,” and “music.”
- Collective nouns: These are nouns that refer to groups of people, animals, or things. Examples include “team,” “flock,” and “bunch.”
How can I identify common and proper nouns?
Common nouns are general and uncapitalized, while proper nouns are specific and begin with a capital letter. Here are some examples:
- Common noun: “dog” (refers to any type of dog)
- Proper noun: “Fido” (refers to a specific dog)
- Common noun: “city” (refers to any city)
- Proper noun: “New York” (refers to a specific city)
How do nouns function within the parts of speech?
Nouns serve various purposes within a sentence. They can function as:
- Subjects: The main focus or the doer of the action in a sentence. Example: “The dog runs fast.”
- Direct Objects: The receiver of the action performed by the subject. Example: “She bought the book.”
- Indirect objects: The receiver of the direct object’s action. Example: “She gave the boy a present.”
- Complements: Nouns that rename or provide more information about the subject. Example: “Jane is a teacher.”
What is the relation between nouns and pronouns?
Pronouns are words used to replace nouns to avoid repetition and make sentences more concise. They refer back to a noun mentioned earlier in the text. There are several types of pronouns, including personal (he, she, it, they), possessive (his, her, its, their), and demonstrative (this, that, these, those). For example:
Instead of saying, “Sarah is a teacher, and Sarah loves her job,” you can say, “Sarah is a teacher, and she loves her job.”
In this case, “she” is a pronoun replacing the noun “Sarah.”
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