Nouns – General


Everything that ever existed or will exist or thought up can be named, and hence the name becomes a noun. Nouns can be the name of a person, place, creature, action, idea, qualities, state of being, or object. Nouns can be a single word or a combination of words such as a Noun Clause, Noun Phrase or a Compound Noun.

  • Person – John
  • Place – Berlin
  • Creature – cat
  • Creature – elephant
  • Plant – tree
  • Plant – mushroom
  • Action – eating
  • Action – sleep
  • Idea – perfectionism
  • Idea – Democracy
  • Quality – blindness
  • States of being – confusion
  • Thing – Drought
  • Object – Earth
  • Object – computer
  • Thought up/Mythical – Klingons
  • Thought up/Mythical – Santa
  • Noun Clause – What he wants for dinner – can be replaced with a noun e.g. Spaghetti
  • Noun Phrase – The man in the front seat  – can be replaced with a noun e.g. Peter
  • Compound  – Bedroom – 2 nouns together – Bed + room

Nouns can be classified as

  • Proper Nouns
  • Common Nouns
  • Collective
  • Countable and Uncountable
  • Concrete and Abstract

Proper Nouns

A proper noun or proper name is a noun that represents a unique entity. You are unique, therefore there is only one of you, so your name is a proper noun. Other things that are unique are places, such as:

  • Countries; Australia, India, Thailand, Iceland
  • States, provinces etc; Texas, Yokohama Ken, The Cotswold,
  • Cities; New York, London, Ha Noi,
  • Geographical formations; Rocky Mountains, Ayers Rock, Amazon river, Sahara
  • Planets and Celestial bodies; Earth, Orion, The North Star
  • Companies; Apple, BMW,  
  • Computer Games/Programs; World of Warcraft, Windows, Moodle,
  • Buildings; The Taj Mahal, London Museum,

Common nouns

Common nouns name everything else. They can be things which are single things, such as cat, or they can name a group of things such as animals.  

Collective Nouns

Collective nouns are nouns which show a collection of individual nouns which has something in common. Examples of this can be:

Animals dogs elephants ants kangaroos pandas
cutlery knives forks spoons
plants rose tree bush grass redwoods
flowers rose carnation orchid
countries America Brazil Laos Zambia

In some cases, the collective noun may be a group of a particular noun

  • A pride of lions
  • A gaggle of geese
  • A herd of cows
  • A pack of dogs

Countable and Uncountable Nouns

Countable and uncountable nouns are all common nouns. Countable nouns can be counted and take the plural form. They can be used with counting quantifiers (one, two, many, every etc) and are most often used with an indefinite article such as a or an.

Uncountable (or mass) nouns cannot be counted and cannot take the plural form. They cannot be used with counting quantifiers and not be used with an indefinite article. To count uncountable nouns a quantifier is needed to separate and measure the items. (a bottle of water, a bag of candy, a box of soap powder)

Some collective nouns are not countable even if you can count the individual items. An example of this is furniture; it is a collective noun that is uncountable.

Some nouns can be countable as well as uncountable, depending on how the item is identified. Beer can be both countable and uncountable. If you are talking about beer as a liquid, then it is uncountable. If, on the other hand, you are talking about a beer or 2 beers, you are talking about a helping of beer, then it becomes countable. The same goes for “sea”, most people see “sea” as uncountable, however, we will say, “I sailed the 7 seas” making sea countable. It all depends on the speakers perspective.

Concrete and Abstract Nouns

Concrete nouns are nouns which a tangible or we can experience them with our 5 senses. i.e. taste, touch, smell, hear and see.  

  • Banana
  • Water
  • Durian
  • Rain
  • sunlight

Abstract nouns are nouns which are intangible, or you can taste, touch, smell, hear or see them. You may be able to see signs of them, as in anger. You might be able to feel the person’s anger by the way they move, frown, and react, but you can not actually feel anger.

  • intelligence
  • bravery
  • warmth
  • justice
  • loyalty
  • disapproval
  • convenience
  • peace

Noun Test

There are ways you can test to see if the word is being used as a noun or something else. two kinds of tests: formal and functional — what a word looks like (the endings it takes) and how a word behaves in a sentence. These tests are not absolute, and there may be nouns which do not conform to these rules.

  • Formal Tests
    1. Does the word contain a noun-making suffix? Such as
      • actor,
      • violinist
      • organisation,
      • wilderness,
      • statehood,
      • government,
      • democracy,
      • Buddhism,
      • tenacity,
    2. Can the word take a plural-form?
      • computers,
      • boxes
    3. Can the word take a possessive-form?
      • Teddy bear’s,
      • princess’
  • Function Tests
  1. Without modifiers, can the word directly follow an article and create a grammatical unit (subject, object, etc.)? the state, an apple, a crate

A noun can be made from an adjective or even a verb, such as with a Gerund. Some nouns also take the same form as a verb, adjective and even adverbs.

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