English Grammar/Basic Parts of Speech/Nouns

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Definition[edit]

A noun represents a person, place, thing, or idea. Nouns are used in sentences in two different ways: as subjects (performers of action), or objects (receivers of action).

The word comes from the Latin "nomen," meaning "name." Word classes like nouns were first described by the Sanskrit grammarian Pāṇini and ancient Greeks like Dionysios Thrax, and were defined in terms of their morphological properties. For example, in Ancient Greek, nouns inflect for grammatical case, such as dative or accusative.

Types of Nouns[edit]

Common and Proper Nouns[edit]

A common noun is any nonspecific person, place or thing.

A proper noun is any specific person, place, living being, or thing. A proper noun can be a name, places, companies, and trademarks. In the English language, all proper nouns are capitalized, which makes them easy to recognize.

Examples[edit]

In comparing common and proper nouns, the word cat can be used to describe many things, which makes it a common noun. Describing an animal as a thing happens in grammar but not biology since they're living beings. (J.D. Meyer) However, you could be more specific and identify a certain cat as being Garfield or Felix, which would make it a proper noun.

Special Classes of Nouns[edit]

  • Concrete noun names something that can be perceived with the five senses (sight, sound, touch, smell and taste).
    Examples: air, flower, food, water
  • Abstract noun names something that can't be perceived with the five senses.
    Examples: love, truth, belief, sympathy
  • Collective noun names a collection or a group of similar things.
    Examples: flock, herd, pack, etc.
  • Mass noun a noun that is very rarely plural and is never with articles 'a' and 'an'.
    Examples: advice, equipment, fruit, information, weather
  • Compound noun is made up of two or more words forming a unit idea.
    Examples: skyscraper, rubout, commander-in-chief

Properties of Nouns[edit]

  1. Person
  2. Number
    • Singular in number indicates one object only.
      Examples: bus, girl, boy, town, stone
    • Plural in number indicates two or more objects. Most noun form their plural by adding -s or -es Examples: bag-bags, tree-trees, glass-glasses, church-churches
  3. Gender determines the sex of a noun.
    • Masculine gender indicates the male sex.
      Examples: brother, gander, nephew, father, John
    • Feminine gender indicates the female sex.
      Examples: mother, sister, doe, Mary
    • Common gender indicates uncertainty of sex which is either male or female.
      Examples: teacher, parent, horse, cat, child
    • Neuter gender indicates that an object is without sex.
      Examples: rock, leaf, sea, mountain, hill, paper
  4. Case shows the relation of a noun to other words in the sentence or phrase.
    • Nominative case indicates that a noun is doing or being something in the sentence. A noun in the nominative case can be either a subject or predicate but not both in the sentence.
    • Objective case indicates that a person or a thing is being acted upon. A noun in the objective case can be use as object of the verb or object of the preposition.
    • Possessive case indicates that a person or a thing owns something. The possessive form of a noun is usually formed by adding an apostrophe (') or an apostrophe s ('s)

Uses of Nouns[edit]

  1. Subject refers to the word about something is said in a sentence.
  2. Predicative nominative or predicate noun renames, identifies or explains the subject in a sentence. It is normally placed after a linking verb.
  3. Direct object refers to the receiver of the action in a sentence. It answers the question What? or Who?
  4. Indirect object tells to whom, to what, for whom or for what a thing is done.
  5. Object of the preposition answers the question What? or Whom? after the preposition.
  6. Appositive refers to a noun that identifies or provides further information about another word in the sentence.
    • Essential appositive makes the meaning of a sentence clear. It is usually not set off by a comma.
    • Non-essential appositive may be omitted in the sentence without changing the meaning of it.
  7. Objective complement adds to the meaning of or renames the direct object. It appears only with these verbs: appoint, call, consider, declare, elect, judge, label, make, name, select or think.
  8. Direct address is the name or word by which a person is addressed. It is set off by a comma.

Identifying Nouns[edit]

In the following paragraph, taken from Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, all nouns appear in bold lettering. The first place that I can well remember was a large pleasant meadow with a pond of clear water in it. Some shady trees leaned over it, and rushes and water-lilies grew at the deep end. Over the hedge on one side we looked into a plowed (British English: ploughed) field, and on the other we looked over a gate at our master's house, which stood by the roadside; at the top of the meadow was a grove of fir trees, and at the bottom a running brook overhung by a steep bank.

Exercises[edit]

Proper Noun and Common Noun[edit]

Identify if the noun is a proper noun or a common noun.

  1. cat
  2. Florida
  3. umbrella
  4. Wikipedia
  5. water
  6. shorts
  7. alcohol
  8. Samsung
  9. song
  10. Cinderella

Give a proper noun that is related to the common noun.

  1. television
  2. shoes
  3. singer
  4. actor
  5. country
  6. book
  7. laptop
  8. cellphone
  9. tree
  10. ball point pen

Give a common noun that is related to the proper noun.

  1. Snow White
  2. Google
  3. Ford
  4. Sunflower
  5. Asia
  6. Hawaii
  7. Meet the Robinsons
  8. Don't Quit
  9. Kobe Bryant
  10. Supercalifragelisticexpialidocious

Other Exercises[edit]

Identify the nouns in the sentences below. There may be more than one noun per sentence.

1. Janet is the name of a girl.

2. Off-key whistling is annoying to me, but not to everybody.

3. Cleanliness is next to godliness.

4. The World Wide Web has become the least expensive way to publish information.

Identify the nouns in the paragraph below. Text is from the first stave of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

5. The air was filled with phantoms, wandering hither and thither in restless haste, and moaning as they went. Every one of them wore chains like Marley's Ghost; some few (they might be guilty governments) were linked together; none were free. Many had been personally known to Scrooge in their lives. He had been quite familiar with one old ghost, in a white waistcoat, with a monstrous iron safe attached to its ankle, who cried piteously at being unable to assist a wretched woman with an infant, whom it saw below, upon a door-step. The misery with them all was, clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power for ever.