A noun is a word that is used to name a person, animal, place, or thing. They can also name an abstract idea. Nouns are usually the first words which we learn as we learn how to speak. The highlighted words in the following sentences are all nouns:
Last year our neighbors bought a house.
Luciano Pavarotti is an opera singer.
The train conductor looked at all the passengers' tickets.
According to Plutarch, the library at Alexandria was destroyed in 48 B.C.
A warm bed is of little comfort to the starving.
A noun can function in a sentence as a subject, a direct object, an indirect object, a subject complement, an object complement, an appositive, an adjective or an adverb.
Many common nouns, like “student” or “teacher,” can refer to men or women. Nouns can change form depending on their gender -- for example, a man is called an “author” while a woman is called an “authoress.” The sentences below contain some examples.
David Garrick was a very prominent eighteenth-century actor. The woman desired to be an actress in the local theater. The restaurant owner was trying to write a want ad, but he couldn't decide whether he was advertising for a “waiter” or a “waitress.”
Most nouns change their form to indicate quantity or number by adding an “s” or “es,” as demonstrated in the following pairs of sentences:
When children are small they rarely tell the truth if they think they are going to be punished.
Many people do not believe that truths are self-evident.
As they walked through the empty building, they were startled by an unexpected echo.
I like to shout into the canyon and listen to the echoes that return.
He carefully placed the chair in the living room.
His living room is filled with many chairs.
There are other nouns which form the plural by changing the last letter before adding “s.” Some words ending in “f” form the plural by deleting “f” and adding “ves,” and words ending in “y” form the plural by deleting the “y” and adding “ies,” as in the following pairs of sentences:
The harbor at Pedal Bay has one wharf.
There are several wharves in Pensacola Harbor.
Honolulu is their favorite city because it reminds them of their honeymoon.
The vacation I am going on includes trips to twelve Latin American cities.
The clowns circled around the headmaster and shouted, “Are you a mouse or a man?”
The audience was shocked when all five clowns admitted that they were afraid of mice.
In the possessive case, a noun or pronoun changes its form to show that it owns or is closely related to something else. Usually, nouns become possessive by adding a combination of an apostrophe and the letter “s.”
You can form the possessive case of a singular noun that does not end in “s” by adding an apostrophe and “s,” as in the following sentences:
The brown briefcase is Bill's.
The only luggage that was lost was the pilot's.
The man was woken up by the alarm clock's bell.
The mechanic's hands were covered in grease.
You can also form the possessive case of a singular noun that ends in “s” by adding an apostrophe alone or by adding an apostrophe and “s,” as in the following examples:
The office's hard plastic seats are very uncomfortable.
The office' seats are very uncomfortable.
The fox ate the chicken's eggs.
The fox ate the chickens' eggs.
George Lucas's films made more money than Jerry Bruckheimer's.
George Lucas' films made more money than Jerry Bruckheimer's.
You can form the possessive case of a plural noun that does not end in “s” by adding an apostrophe and an “s,” as in the following examples:
The children's toys were scattered on the floor of the room.
The baby's crib was cleaned every day.
The team waited in anticipation for the referee's decision.
The men's basketball team will be play as soon as the women's team is finished.
The hunter followed the moose's trail all morning but lost it in the afternoon.
You can also form the possessive case of a plural noun that does end in “s” by adding an apostrophe:
The sermon was interrupted by the phones' ringing, the cars' honking, and the babies' crying.
The captains' stateroom is up the ladder and to the left.
We spent many hours on our trip trying to locate the eagles' nest.
The carpenter finally finished repairing the walls' damages.
Politics is usually the subject of my roommates' many late night debates.
Using Possessive Nouns
In the following sentences, please notice that a noun in the possessive case frequently functions as an adjective modifying another noun:
The mechanic's face was covered in grease.
Here the possessive noun “mechanic's” is used to modify the noun “face” and together with the article “the,” they make up the noun phrase that is the sentence's subject.
The sermon was interrupted by the phones' ringing, the cars' honking, and the babies'crying.
In the above sentence, each possessive noun modifies a gerund. The possessive noun “phones” modifies “ringing,” “cars” modifies “honking,” and “babies” modifies “crying.”
The fox ate the chicken's eggs.
In this example the possessive noun “chicken's” modifies the noun “eggs” and the noun phrase “the chicken's eggs” is the direct object of the verb “ate.”
We spent many hours on our trip trying to locate the eagles'nest.
In the sentence above, the possessive noun “eagles” is used to modify the noun “nest” and the noun phrase “the eagles' nest” is the object of the infinitive phrase “to locate.”
Types Of Nouns
There are many different types of nouns that you will use. You must capitalize some nouns, such as “Nebraska” or “Steven.” Other nouns are capitalized, such as “eagle” or “nest” (the exception is if they appear at the beginning of a sentence). In fact, their is a whole series of noun types, including the proper noun, the common noun, the concrete noun, the abstract noun, the countable noun (also called the count noun), the non-countable noun (also called the mass noun), and the collective noun. It is possible that a noun will belong to more than one type: it will be proper or common, abstract or concrete, and countable or non-countable or collective.
The information below contains details on these different types of nouns.
You always write a proper noun with a capital letter, since the noun represents the name of a specific person, place, or thing. The names of days of the week, months, historical places or documents, institutions, and organizations. Religions, their holy texts and their adherents are also proper nouns. You can think of a proper noun as the opposite of a common noun.
In each of the following sentences, the proper nouns are highlighted:
The Marines were transported from the Uinted States and required to build the fortifications in Tehran.
Many people dread going to work on Monday.
Cico de Mayo is celebrated on the fifth of May.
Abraham is an important character in the Bible, the Talmud, and in the Koran.
When I was in college, I had a Baptist, a Methodist, and a Catholic as roommates.
A common noun is a noun referring to a person, place, or thing in a general sense -- usually you should write it with a capital letter only when it begins a sentence. A common noun is the opposite of a proper noun.
In each of the following sentences, the common nouns are In each of the following sentences, the common nouns are highlighted:
According to the billboard, the nearest gas station is only 10 miles away.
The garden in my backyard was invaded by aphids this summer.
I don't understand why some people insist on having several different kinds of cream in their coffee.
The road crew was startled by the sight of many deer crossing the road.
Many school teachers are underpaid.
Sometimes you will need to make proper nouns out of common nouns, as in the following examples:
The Diary of Petr Ginz: 1941-1942 can be a child's first introduction to the history of the Holocaust.
The tenants in the Garden Apartments are appalled the large and sudden increase in their rent.
The meals in the Greasy Spoon Restaurant are less expensive than meals in other local restaurants.
Many artists refer to the Baroque period as the beginning of the Enlightned Times.
A concrete noun is a noun which names a specific object such as a person, place, or thing that you can perceive (become aware of) through your physical senses: touch, sight, taste, hearing, or smell. A concrete noun is the opposite of an abstract noun.
The highlighted words in the sentences below are all concrete nouns:
The supervisor handed the files to the subordinate.
Whenever they take the dog to the park, it spends hours chasing the ball.
The insurance agent urged the couple to repair the house because the roof needed new shingles.
The cobbler replaced the worn out leather on the shoe and made it look like it was brand new.
An abstract noun is a noun which names anything which you cannot perceive through your five physical senses; i.e. concepts. Qualities such as feelings, ideas, and characteristics are named by abstract nouns. The abstract noun is the opposite of a concrete noun. The highlighted words in the sentences below are all abstract nouns:
The painting was a thing of beauty.
My wife and I are deeply in love.
Jason had the courage to volunteer for the mission.
Honesty is always the best policy.
A countable noun (or count noun) is a noun with both a singular and a plural form, and it names anything (or anyone) that you can count. Count nouns refer to things that exist as separate and distinct individual units. You can also make a countable noun plural and attach it to a plural verb in a sentence. Countable nouns are the opposite of non-countable nouns and collective nouns.
In each of the sentences below, the highlighted words are countable nouns:
Billy sat on the chair. (How many chairs did Billy sit on? Just one.)
I drank a bottle of soda. (Bottles can be counted.)
Charlie found three dollars in the pocket of his pants. (Dollars, pockets, and pants can be counted.)
I saw atree that blown over by the tornado. (Trees and tornadoes can be counted.)
A non-countable noun is a noun which does not have a plural form, and which refers to something that you could (or would) not usually count; i.e. furniture. Non-Countable nouns refer to things that can't be counted because they are thought of as wholes that can't be cut into parts. They often refer to abstractions and occasionally have a collective meaning (for example, furniture refers to tables, chairs, and many other objects). A non-countable noun always takes a singular verb in a sentence. Non-countable nouns are similar to collective nouns, and are the opposite of countable nouns.
The highlighted words in the sentences below are non-countable nouns:
Mary dove into the water. (Water cannot be counted.)
We decided to sell the furniture at the auction. (You cannot make the noun “furniture” plural.)
The furniture is piled in the middle of the room. (Since “furniture” is a non-countable noun, it takes a singular verb, “is piled.”)
I enjoy viewing the foliage in the fall. (Foliage cannot be counted.)
A collective noun is a noun naming a group of things, animals, or persons acting as a unit. You could count the individual members of the group, but you usually think of the group as a whole and is therefore; one unit. You need to be able to recognize collective nouns in order to maintain subject-verb agreement. A collective noun is similar to a non-countable noun, and is roughly the opposite of a countable noun.
In each of the sentences below, the highlighted word is a collective noun:
My family is moving to Alaska. (Family is a unit.)
The committee in charge of purchases meets every Wednesday afternoon. (A committee is made up of many members.)
The class was studying advanced algebra. (How many people are in the class? We don't know.)
A herd of antelope ran across the grass plains. (A herd can consist of many animals.)
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