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The Definitions of Noun
- A noun is a word that functions as the name of a specific object or set of objects, such as living creatures, places, actions, qualities, states of existence, or ideas.
- Noun is a word (other than a pronoun) used to identify any of a class of people, places, or things (common noun), or to name a particular one of these ( proper noun ).
- Noun is a word that is the name of something (such as a person, animal, place, thing, quality, idea, or action) and is typically used in a sentence as subject or object of a verb or as object of a preposition
- A noun is a word that names something, such as a person, place, thing, or idea. In a sentence, nouns can play the role of subject, direct object, indirect object, subject complement, object complement, appositive, or adjective.
- A noun is a part of a sentence that identifies the places, things, ideas, people, events, and other objects.
- Noun is a word that refers to a person, place, thing, event, substance, or quality
- A noun is a word such as ' car', ' love', or ' Anne' which is used to refer to a person or thing.
What is a Noun?
The simple definition is: a person, place or thing. Here are some examples:
- person: man, woman, teacher, John, Mary
- place: home, office, town, countryside, America
- thing: table, car, banana, money, music, love, dog, monkey
The problem with the simple definition above is that it does not explain why "love" is a noun but can also be a verb.
Another (more complicated) way of recognizing a noun is by its:
1. Noun ending
There are certain word endings that show that a word is a noun, for example:
- -ity → nationality
- -ment → appointment
- -ness → happiness
- -ation → relation
- -hood → childhood
But this is not true for the word endings of all nouns. For example, the noun "spoonful" ends in -ful, but the adjective "careful" also ends in -ful.
2. Position in sentence
We can often recognise a noun by its position in the sentence.
Nouns often come after a determiner (a determiner is a word like a, an, the, this, my, such):
- a relief
- an afternoon
- the doctor
- this word
- my house
- such stupidity
Nouns often come after one or more adjectives:
- a great relief
- a peaceful afternoon
- the tall, Indian doctor
- this difficult word
- my brown and white house
- such crass stupidity
3. Function in a sentence
Nouns have certain functions (jobs) in a sentence, for example:
- subject of verb: Doctors work hard.
- object of verb: He likes coffee.
- subject and object of verb: Teachers teach students.
But the subject or object of a sentence is not always a noun. It could be a pronoun or a phrase. In the sentence "My doctor works hard", the noun is "doctor" but the subject is "My doctor".
Types of Nouns
Nouns are an important part of speech in English, probably second only to verbs. It is difficult to say much without using a noun.
There are several different types of English nouns. It is often useful to recognize what type a noun is because different types sometimes have different rules. This helps you to use them correctly.
Common Nouns and Proper Nouns
Most nouns are common nouns. Common nouns refer to people, places and things in general like chair or dog. Any noun that is not a name is a common noun.
Examples: teacher, car, music, danger, receipt
- Have you seen my dog?
- The books are on your desk.
- ...the pursuit of happiness.
Rule: Proper nouns always start with a capital letter.
Examples: Jane, Thailand, Sunday, James Bond, Einstein, Superman, Game of Thrones, Shakespeare
- Let me introduce you to Mary.
- The capital of Italy is Rome.
- He is the chairman of the British Broadcasting Corporation.
- I was born in November.
Note: Adjectives that we make from proper nouns also usually start with a capital letter, for example Shakespearian, Orwellian.
Concrete Nouns and Abstract Nouns
Concrete nouns are physical things that you can touch.
Examples: man, rice, head, car, furniture, mobile phone
- How many stars are there in the universe?
- Have you met James Bond?
- Pour the water down the drain.
Abstract nouns are the opposite of concrete nouns. They are things that you cannot touch. Abstract nouns are ideas, concepts and feelings.
Examples: happiness, courage, danger, truth
- He has great strength.
- Who killed President Kennedy is a real mystery.
- Sometimes it takes courage to tell the truth.
- Their lives were full of sadness.
Countable Nouns and Uncountable Nouns
(also called count nouns)
You can count countable nouns. Countable nouns have singular and plural forms.
Examples: ball, boy, cat, person
- I have only five dollars.
- The Earth was formed 4.6 billion years ago.
- There are lots of people but we don't have a car.
(also called mass nouns)
You cannot count uncountable nouns. You need to use "measure words" to quantify them.
Rule: We never use uncountable nouns with the indefinite article (a/an). Uncountable nouns are always singular.
Examples: water, happiness, cheese
- Have you got some money?
- Air-conditioners use a lot of electricity.
- Do you have any work for me to do?
- Many Asians eat rice.
A collective noun denotes a group of individuals.
Examples: class (group of students), pride (group of lions), crew (group of sailors)
Rule: Collective nouns can be treated as singular or plural. More about this at rules of subject-verb agreement with collective nouns.
- His family live in different countries.
- An average family consists of four people.
- The new company is the result of a merger.
- The board of directors will meet tomorrow.
A compound noun is a noun that is made with two or more words. Most compound nouns are [noun + noun] or [adjective + noun]. Each compound noun acts as a single unit and can be modified by adjectives and other nouns.
Compound nouns have three different forms:
- open or spaced - space between words (bus stop)
- hyphenated - hyphen between words (mother-in-law)
- closed or solid - no space or hyphen between words (football)
Examples: cat food, blackboard, breakfast, full moon, washing machine, software
- Can we use the swimming pool?
- They stop work at sunset.
- Don't forget that check-out is at 12 noon.
Nouns are everywhere in our writing. But what are all the types of nouns you come across, and how do you use them?
What is a noun?
A noun is a word that names something, such as a person, place, thing, or idea. In a sentence, nouns can play the role of subject, direct object, indirect object, subject complement, object complement, appositive, or adjective.
Types of nouns
Nouns form a large proportion of English vocabulary and they come in a wide variety of types. Nouns can name a person:
Nouns can also name a place:
Nouns can also name things, although sometimes they might be intangible things, such as concepts, activities, or processes. Some might even be hypothetical or imaginary things.
Proper nouns vs. common nouns
One important distinction to be made is whether a noun is a proper noun or a common noun. A proper noun is a specific name of a person, place, or thing, and is always capitalized.
Tina is the name of a specific person.
Old Faithful is the specific name of a geological phenomenon.
The opposite of a proper noun is a common noun, sometimes known as a generic noun. A common noun is the generic name of an item in a class or group and is not capitalized unless appearing at the beginning of a sentence or in a title.
Girl is a common noun; we do not learn the identity of the girl by reading this sentence, though we know the action she takes. River is also a common noun in this sentence.
Types of common nouns
Common or generic nouns can be broken down into three subtypes: concrete nouns, abstract nouns, and collective nouns. A concrete noun is something that is perceived by the senses; something that is physical or real.
Doorbell and keyboard are real things that can be sensed.
Conversely, an abstract noun is something that cannot be perceived by the senses.
Courage is an abstract noun. Courage can’t be seen, heard, or sensed in any other way, but we know it exists.
A collective noun denotes a group or collection of people or things.
Pack of lies as used here is a collective noun. Collective nouns take a singular verb as if they are one entity – in this case, the singular verb is.
Pride of lions is also a collective noun.
Nouns as subjects
Every sentence must have a subject, and that subject will always be a noun. The subject of a sentence is the person, place, or thing that is doing or being the verb in that sentence.
Maria is the subject of this sentence and the corresponding verb is a form of to be (is).
Nouns as objects
Nouns can also be objects of a verb in a sentence. An object can be either a direct object (a noun that receives the action performed by the subject) or an indirect object (a noun that is the recipient of a direct object).
Books is a direct object (what is being given) and her is the indirect object (who the books are being given to).
Nouns as subject and object complements
Another type of noun use is called a subject complement. In this example, the noun teacher is used as a subject complement.
Subject complements normally follow linking verbs like to be, become, or seem. A teacher is what Mary is.
A related usage of nouns is called an object complement.
Husband and wife are nouns used as object complements in this sentence. Verbs that denote making, naming, or creating are often followed by object complements.
Appositive nouns and nouns as modifiers
An appositive noun is a noun that immediately follows another noun in order to further define or identify it.
Michael is an appositive here, further identifying the subject of the sentence, my brother.
Sometimes, nouns can be used adjectivally as well.
Speed is a normally a noun, but here it is acting as an adjective to modify demon.
Plural nouns, unlike collective nouns, require plural verbs. Many English plural nouns can be formed by adding -s or -es to the singular form, although there are many exceptions.
Note the plural verb are.
Countable nouns vs. uncountable nouns
Countable nouns are nouns which can be counted, even if the number might be extraordinarily high (like counting all the people in the world). Countable nouns can be used with a/an, the, some, any, a few, and many.
Cat is singular and—obviously—countable.
Uncountable nouns are nouns that come in a state or quantity which is impossible to count; liquids are uncountable, as are things that act like liquids (sand, air). They are always considered to be singular, and can be used with some, any, a little, and much.
Intelligence is an uncountable noun.
This example refers to an unspecified, unquantifiable amount of homework, so homework is an uncountable noun.
Possessive nouns are nouns which possess something; i.e., they have something. You can identify a possessive noun by the apostrophe; most nouns show the possessive with an apostrophe and an s.
The cat possesses the toy, and we denote this by use of ‑’s at the end of cat.
When a singular noun ends in the letter s or z, the same format often applies. This is a matter of style, however, and some style guides suggest leaving off the extra s.
Plural nouns ending in s take only an apostrophe to form a possessive.
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