Look everywhere around you. Is there something you can see that you cannot name? There isn’t, right?
All thanks to nouns! But what are nouns exactly?
Well, in general, nouns are what name everything around us. But nouns are way more than that.
If you are curious to find out the answer to the question ‘What are nouns,’ and what the different rules governing nouns are, you are in luck! We have laid out everything about nouns in this post. If you want to learn more, please read on.
Nouns represent people, places, and things. A word represents everything we can see or talk about. That word is referred to as a ‘noun.’
You can think of a noun as a ‘naming word’ if that helps.
A noun is usually the name of something we can touch (for example, ‘lion,’ ‘cake,’ or ‘computer’), but it can also be the name of something we can’t touch (e.g., ‘bravery,’ ‘mile,’ ‘joy’).
A well-tested method of syntactic identification must be explored if you want to utilize nouns correctly and identify, form, and employ this word class every time.
The most effective way to identify nouns is first to recognize their multiple functions in the English language and then run a series of syntactic and morphological tests on the words in question.
What are the Eleven Types of English Noun?
It is critical to recognize that nouns vary in their form and function between languages.
While such diversity is important from a linguistic standpoint, the most important component of this word class for English academic students is to identify the different types of nouns and how to use them properly.
- Abstract and Concrete Nouns
- Common and Proper Nouns
- Singular and Plural Nouns
- Countable and Uncountable Nouns
- Collective Nouns
- Compound Nouns
- Possessive Nouns
1 & 2: Abstract and Concrete Nouns
The first two noun kinds are described together because they are distributed in complementary ways like many other noun categories.
The first category, abstract nouns, refers to things that do not have a physical or visible presence, such as thoughts or emotions that cannot be felt with the five senses.
On the other hand, concrete nouns refer to tangible, observable objects that can be touched, seen, or smelled.
3 & 4: Common and Proper Nouns
One of the largest clusters of nouns is the common noun, which is a noun that names any general thing. There are three categories of common nouns: abstract/concrete, singular/plural, and countable/uncountable.
On the other hand, proper nouns are a small group of nouns that are used to name certain things like an object, a person, a title, or a location.
Proper nouns are usually the nouns that must be capitalized due to their uniqueness and specificity.
5 & 6: Singular and Plural Nouns
Almost all nouns have a manner of establishing singularity (one) from a plurality (more than one).
However, how they do this differs depending on the type of noun used, with plural nouns having only a simple ‘-s’ suffix to indicate the number and uncountable nouns requiring additional terms such as ‘four bowls or ‘six slices of’.
Even with the simplicity of single and plural categorizations, some irregular nouns pluralize differently by changing the spelling.
|Singular Nouns||Plural Nouns|
7 & 8: Countable and Uncountable Nouns
A countable noun is anything that can be counted, singular or plural. Uncountable nouns are anything that cannot be counted.
Singular verbs must always be used with uncountable nouns since they are singular despite the fact that they are not separate things.
9: Collective Nouns
Collective nouns are nouns that retain their plural meaning even when employed singularly.
If a collective noun, such as ‘team,’ is singular, it can express one meaning, and when it is plural, it can express another.
|committee||“The committee is discussing its plan for future investments.”||“The committee seems to have a misunderstanding regarding their plans for future investments.”|
|group||“The group decided to cancel the project.”||“The group agrees to share a part of their savings as a pledge.”|
10: Compound Nouns
Compound nouns are nouns in which a noun and another word (typically another noun) are combined to form a new word with its own distinct meaning.
Compound nouns can be written as a single word, two separate words, or as a single hyphenated phrase.
11: Possessive Nouns
A possessive noun expresses ownership or belonging.
This would typically include an ‘s for a single person holding one or more people, places, or things, also known as a singular possessive noun, and an ‘s for multiple people possessing singular or plural people, places, or things, also known as a plural possessive noun.
What are the Five Functions of Nouns in English Grammar?
Because an independent sentence must include a subject and a verb, and because nouns are the essential words in clause subjects and objects of verbs and prepositions, this word class obviously serves to form the basic foundation of human language.
Below are the different ways in which nouns function in a sentence.
- Function 1 – Nouns as Subjects
- Function 2 – Nouns as Objects
- Function 3 – Nouns as Subject and Object Complement
- Function 4 – Nouns Being in Apposition to Another Noun
- Function 5 – Nouns as Modifiers
Function 1 – Nouns as Subjects
A noun can be the subject. It acts or demonstrates a state of being as defined by the verb.
The subject is clearly identifiable because it appears at the start of a phrase and is followed by a verb.
“The woman left her purse in the restaurant.”
“She takes care of her pets.”
“Elle loves to paint.”
“Indonesia is a tropical country.”
Function 2 – Nouns as Objects
When a noun follows after an action verb and receives the verb’s action, it operates as the verb’s object.
In a sentence, a noun that serves as the object of a verb is always the recipient of an action.
“He helped the lady cross the street.”
“She is baking a cake.”
“They are watching Star Wars.”
“Ned is buying a Tesla.”
Function 3 – Nouns as Subject and Object Complement
When a noun follows after a linking verb or a state-of-being verb and receives no action from the verb, it functions as the complement.
The following are some examples of linking verbs in the English language: is, are, am, be, was, were, been, being, seem, taste, appoint, become, feel, smell, sound, appear, etc.
“Susan is the winner.”
“He was a businessman.”
“It looks like an insect.”
“Meryl Streep is an excellent actress.”
Function 4 – Nouns Being in Apposition to Another Noun
A noun might be in front of or behind another noun. The word ‘apposition’ implies ‘to place a noun next to another noun to explain it’.
So, if you find a noun next to another noun that explains the other noun, you have an excellent example of a noun in opposition to another noun.
“He is working on her hobby, arts.”
“She is preparing her specialty, lasagna.”
“My English teacher, Ms. Smith, is retiring next year.”
“My favorite book, Little Women, has a movie adaptation.
Function 5 – Nouns as Modifiers
A noun can modify a noun that comes after it.
The initial noun acts as a modifier, providing information about the noun after it. In almost every situation, the noun that serves as a modifier is singular.
“She loves chicken soup.”
“He lives in a two-bedroom apartment.”
“The gift shop is located across the museum.”
“Mr. Tan works in a culinary school.”
Which Tests Correctly Identify English Nouns?
To help with confident noun identification, keep in mind that any word in the English language can belong to many word classes based on its form, function, and syntax.
Because it is not always evident to the speaker which words belong to which word class and when we have put together a list of five tests to help you recognize nouns more easily and consistently.
- Test 1: Collocation
- Test 2: Function
- Test 3: Morphology
- Test 4: Syntax
- Test 5: Exceptions
Test 1: Collocation
One of the most effective ways to tell if a word is a noun is to look at the words surrounding it – the words it collocates with.
To do so effectively, remember that nouns are always contained within a bigger noun phrase, regardless of whether they operate as subjects or objects.
The head noun is the most important word in a noun phrase that may or may not include additional pre-modifying or post-modifying word classes.
|Modifying Elements||Noun Phrases|
|Adjectives||‘her lovely dress’|
‘the old man’
|Prepositional Phrases||‘the car in front of the house’ |
‘the books on the shelf’
|Adjective Clauses||‘his old bag, which was given by his parents’ |
‘my red coat that I bought in Paris’
Test 2: Function
In English, nouns can fulfill functions such as categorizing or specifying numbers and gender.
Students who want to improve their odds of correctly identifying nouns should pay attention to the following functions:
|Naming things||door, phone, England, Mount Kilimanjaro|
|Categorizing Things||animals > herbivores > sheep|
|Making clauses||“He loves cars.”|
|Specifying number||“I own three purses.”|
|Specifying gender||“Is the newborn a boy or a girl?”|
Test 3: Morphology
Morphology is the study of how words are produced through affixation processes.
While English nouns do not alter their form as frequently as some languages to indicate case, gender, or number through prefixation and suffixation, several commonly used terms worth memorizing convey these traits and aid in identification.
|Gender||man – woman|
queen – king
|Number||butterfly – butterflies |
child – children
|Possession||Jason – Jason’s |
Kelly – Kelly’s
The two tables below show how adjectives and verbs can become nouns by basic suffixation processes in derivational affixation, which is the act of transforming words from one class to another.
Nouns become considerably easier to recognize when suffixes like ‘-ness,’ ‘-ty,’ and ‘ant’ are recognized.
|+ Suffix Adjectives|
|Verbs||+ Suffix||= Nouns|
Test 4: Syntax
Syntax, or the study of how words are put together, is also helpful for identifying nouns.
The following are seven common sentence patterns, each of which has a head noun within a noun phrase.
|Nouns as subjects||“The students are in the library.” |
“The cats miss their owner.”
|Nouns as objects||“He gave her a new watch.” |
“My dad is fixing the car.”
|Nouns as subject and object complement||“The whole community is feeling the pain.” |
“They are the guests.”
|Nouns being in apposition to another noun.||“The pastor, Mr. Hills, is moving to another town.” |
“Her best friend, Holly, is coming next week.”
|Nouns as modifiers||“The alarm clock has stopped working.” |
“The flower vase is an antique.”
Test 5: Exceptions
Like any other rules, there are some exceptions to every rule in grammar that must be memorized if you want to identify nouns every time accurately.
There is some variance and irregularity in the capitalization, plurality, and possession of nouns and other noun-like items that you should be aware of, such as pronouns and gerunds.
What are the Rules for Making Nouns?
Now that several key rules for accurately recognizing the forms and functions of nouns have been covered, the next section will focus on the five rules that, if followed, can substantially aid academic performance.
- Rule 1 – Pre-Modifying Nouns
- Rule 2 – Post-Modifying Nouns
- Rule 3 – Capitalizing Nouns
- Rule 4 – Pluralizing Nouns
- Rule 5 – Making Possessives
Rule 1 – Pre-Modifying Nouns
When deciding which words to employ before a noun in a noun phrase, or pre-modification, it is crucial to keep in mind that certain rules apply to which word types and word classes can be utilized.
Only determiners (such as articles and quantifiers), numerals, and adjectives can come before a noun, and they must stay in that order.
Rule 2 – Post-Modifying Nouns
In English, post-modification refers to the placement of a modifying word, phrase, or clause after a noun.
The four categories of post-modifying structures are prepositional phrases, finite and non-finite adjective clauses, and non-finite verb phrases.
|Prepositional Phrase||“He’s the man in the picture.”|
|Non-finite Verb Phrases||“I need a new hobby to learn.”|
|Finite Adjective Clauses||“The house that was robbed last night is my friend’s.|
|Non-finite Adjective Clauses||“The man standing next to the car is my father.”|
Rule 3 – Capitalizing Nouns
You may find it struggling to know when to capitalize a noun correctly. Is it ‘Spring’ or ‘spring’, or ‘Doctor’ or ‘doctor’, for example?
If you want to capitalize correctly every time, there are three easy questions you should ask yourself.
- Is the noun used at the start of a sentence? If the answer is yes, capitalize the noun in question. Any sentence’s first word is always capitalized.
- Is the noun the pronoun ‘I’ in the first person? When the pronoun ‘I’ is used, it must always be represented by a capital letter.
- Is the noun in question a proper noun? Proper nouns are a small group of nouns that are used to refer to something specific, such as a person, thing, a title, or a region. Proper nouns, which are divided into four groups as stated below, should always be capitalized.
|Locations: continents, countries, cities, regions, towns, states||Asia|
|Geography: seas, oceans, lakes, rivers, mountains||The Andes|
|Time: holidays, days, seasons, months||Thanksgiving|
|Titles: movies, books, works, people||Avatar|
The Leaning Tower of Pisa
Rule 4 – Pluralizing Nouns
In the English language, there are five categories of nouns that show singularity (one) or plurality (more than one) in some way.
There are standards for accurate and grammatical pluralization for singular, plural, countable, uncountable, and collective nouns, and each has its own set of norms.
1. Singular Countable Nouns
When single, countable nouns that only signify one of an object or concepts, such as ‘book’, ‘home’, or ‘idea’, must always take a determiner.
Determiners like ‘the’, ‘my’, or ‘a‘ (as in ‘the book’, ‘my house’, or ‘a fantastic concept’) must be used when the countable word is not in its plural form.
2. Plural Countable Nouns
Countable nouns that denote multiples of an item or concept can be used without a determiner (as in ‘computers are helpful’) or with particular determiners, quantifiers, and numerals (as in “Those phones are useful.” “Some phones are useful”, or “I have two phones”).
When trying to pluralize countable nouns like these, there are four guidelines to follow:
|Rules for Pluralizing Nouns||Examples|
|Add the suffix ‘-s’||painting – paintings|
shop – shops
|Add the suffix ‘-es’ for nouns that end in ‘-ch’, ‘-o’, ‘-s’, ‘-sh’, ‘-ss’, and ‘-x’||church – churches |
mango – mangoes
bus – buses
bush – bushes
glass – glasses
box – boxes
|Omit the ‘-y’ and change it to ‘-i’, then add ‘-es’ for nouns that end in ‘-y’||butterfly – butterflies|
library – libraries
|Change the spelling for irregular nouns||goose – geese|
leaf – leaves
ox – oxen
person – people
3. Uncountable Nouns
Uncountable nouns, like ‘oil’ or ‘sand’, are plural by definition and do not show plural forms in the same way as countable nouns do.
These nouns can be used with quantifiers (as in ‘some food’), but never with the indefinite articles ‘a’ or ‘an’.
Nevertheless, it is essential to note that nouns with both uncountable and countable forms should be avoided.
While some nouns, such as ‘hope’, will have the same meaning in both counts and uncountable forms, others, such as ‘language’, will have different meanings.
|hope||“Having hope is always important.”||“He has high hopes for his band.”|
|language||“I want to learn a new language.”||“She speaks four languages.”|
It is also worth watching out for uncountable nouns that end in ‘s’, such as ‘mathematics’ or ‘rabies’, as they can appear to be plural countable nouns.
You have to remember that many uncountable nouns can be counted by adding additional expressions.
|paper||a piece of paper||three pieces of paper|
|water||a liter of water||four liters of water|
|bread||a loaf of bread||five loaves of bread|
|jam||a jar of jam||two jars of jam|
4. Collective Nouns
The essential guideline to remember is that collective nouns that are always plural, such as ‘family’, ‘group’, or ‘team’, may require singular or plural subject-verb agreement depending on their meaning.
|family||“He is from a well-known family.”||“My family loves eating together every now and then.”|
|team||“The team hopes to win their first-ever championship.”||“The team needs to settle their differences.”|
Rule 5 – Making Possessives
When one noun asserts ownership over another (as in ‘the student’s research’), possessives are used.
The most evident difference in how possessives are produced is between singular and plural nouns.
1. Singular Nouns
The simplest rule for making a singular noun possessive, whether countable or uncountable, is to put an apostrophe (‘) and the suffix ‘-s’ to the noun that possesses ownership.
However, because many common nouns and proper nouns already end in a ‘-s’, there is some ambiguity and variety.
For cases like these, it is ambiguous whether the existing noun should have both an apostrophe and a ‘-s’ or just the apostrophe.
Reading the statement aloud is the best piece of advice we can give.
If you say the extra ‘-s’ when pronouncing it, add that extra ‘-s’, and if you do not, just add the apostrophe.
|Apostrophe + ‘-s’||Apostrophe Only|
|the class’s project||the spectacles’ frame|
|Ms. Jones’s||Mr. Hastings’ donation|
2. Plural Nouns
The basic practice here is to add only an apostrophe and not an additional ‘-s’ to regular plural nouns that end in the suffix ‘-s’ already.
This also applies to plural proper names. However, an apostrophe and the suffix ‘-s’ should be added to the end of irregular nouns.
|these books’ covers||the Joneses property||women’s purses|
|her daughters’ rooms||the Hastingses business||children’s party|
Which Academic Nouns and Phrases are Best?
This section focuses on using nouns correctly in academic settings.
Below are some of the most popular academic nouns and expressions since some nouns and accompanying expressions are more appropriate while studying academically, such as when conducting research or writing university-level projects.
150+ Common Academic Nouns
|A||ability, achievement, advantage, amount, analysis, application, argument, association, assumption, attempt, author, awareness|
|B||balance, behavior, being, belief, benefit, bias, birth|
|C||category, cause, characteristic, classification, colleague, combination, community, comparison, complexity, compromise, concept, concern, conclusion, contrast, control, convention, country, creation, crisis, criticism, culture|
|D||data, definition, degree, demand, determination, difficulty, dilemma, disadvantage, discussion, distinction, diversity|
|E||effect, environment, evidence, example, exception, exclusion, existence, experience, experiment, explanation|
|F||fact, factor, failure, finding, form, formation, function|
|G||gain, group, growth, guidance, guideline|
|I||idea, identity, impact, importance, improvement, increase, influence, insight, instance, institution, introduction, investigation, isolation, issue|
|J||jargon, justice, juvenile|
|L||level, likelihood, limit, limitation|
|M||maintenance, majority, material, means, measure, medium, motivation, movement|
|N||need, network, norm, notion, number|
|O||observation, occurrence, opportunity, option, organization|
|P||participant, past, percentage, population, position, possibility, potential, practice, presence, procedure, process|
|R||range, rate, reality, reasoning, recognition, reduction, reference, relation, relationship, research, result, review, rise|
|S||sample, scale, scheme, scope, search, section, significance, similarity, situation, source, space, spread, standard, statistics, summary|
|T||task, technique, tendency, theory, tolerance, topic, trend|
|V||validity, variation, viewpoint, volume|
|W||welfare, whole, work, world|
Why Should We Be Familiar with Nouns?
The majority of the English language is made up of nouns. Nouns are perhaps the most important of the many different components of speech.
New nouns emerge as people develop new ideas, media, and technologies every year. The core function of a noun, on the other hand, remains constant.
Nouns make it possible for everyone to understand each other more easily, so learning the different nouns and the rules governing them is crucial for your professional and academic success.
Additional Reading — ENGLISH GRAMMAR
- What is British English?
- What is American English?
- What is Canadian English?
- What is Australian English?
- 30+ Tips to Speak English Without Grammar Mistakes
- What Are Idioms?
- What Are Verbs?
- What Are Adjectives?
- What Are Pronouns?
- What Are Adverbs?
- What Are Tenses?
- What Are Punctuation Marks?
- What Are Prepositions?
- What Are Loanwords?
- What are Phrasal Verbs?
- What Are Collocations?
- What Are Conjunctions?
- What are Modals?
- What is Subject-Verb Agreement?
- What Are Sentence Structures?
- What Are Sentence Parts?
- What are Sentence Functions?
- What Are Clauses?
- What are the Common Slang Words in the English Language?
- What are the Commonly Misspelled Words in English?