Map, Audrey Hepburn, longevity, orchestra, and beads. You might think these words have nothing in common, but they all belong to the category of nouns. I always thought nouns were both simple and complex, but always easy to explain.
So, what are nouns? What is the function of the noun? Learn the definition of a noun and its types and functions as I break it all down for you. I also provided an activity you can try to test your understanding. Let’s go!
What is a Noun?
Merriam Webster says a noun is pretty much anything that serves as a subject. English nouns can be found in every writing piece. I use them daily in both fiction and content writing. You even use them regularly when constructing emails or even sending a text. This part of speech names a person, place, thing, or idea. Some examples of noun words include toy, girl, doctor, birthday, and New York.
There are several forms of nouns, such as collective, abstract, concrete, and proper nouns. These words function as the subject, predicate nominative, direct object, or indirect object of a sentence. Some nouns even function as adjectives.
What are the Types of Nouns?
There are seven primary types of nouns in English grammar. Let’s go over them!
Collective nouns are one of the categories of nouns that name a collection or a number of things, people, or animals in a sentence. Some collective noun examples include:
This type of noun may use a singular or plural verb, depending on the usage of nouns. Use singular verbs when the members of the group act as one. For example:
- The couple enjoys traveling to Morocco every year.
- The jury hasn’t reached a decision.
Use a plural verb if the members are acting separately.
- The couple use separate accounts for personal finances.
- The jury are having lunch with their families.
Try using different words if you can’t decide whether the collective noun requires plural or singular verb form. Here, I’ll give you an example. Instead of saying team, you can say members or players. Instead of saying a flock of birds, try birds.
Abstract Nouns vs. Concrete Nouns
An abstract noun is any word which names something intangible or not concrete. That means your physical senses cannot capture these abstract nouns because they are like ideas. Abstract nouns can also be concepts, events, or qualities.
I whipped up a list of abstract nouns for you:
Her, I’ll put them in some sentences so you can better understand.
- The players show extreme strength.
- Her horse’s beauty stands out among the others.
- Our friendship grew stronger after that one challenge.
A concrete noun is a type that the five senses can perceive. You can see, hear, feel, smell, or taste it.
Below are some concrete noun examples.
- Empire State Building.
- Soy sauce.
- Air conditioner.
Here’s a sentence example.
- The teacher was kind enough to extend the deadline.
Here, the noun teacher is concrete because we can see or hear one. Make sense?
The distinction between the abstract and concrete nouns is more challenging than expected. For instance, laughter can be perceived by the five senses. However, many grammarians consider it an abstract noun.
Proper Nouns vs. Common Nouns
A proper noun names a specific person, object, place, or event. Instead of saying teacher, you can say Miss Jenkins. You can also say Olive Garden instead of restaurant. Here are some proper noun examples.
- Mount Everest.
- Boston Celtics.
- The University of Pennsylvania.
- South America.
- George Washington.
- The Supreme Court.
- Fifth Avenue.
- Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
- The Blue Danube.
A common noun names a generic person, place, or thing. Here are some common noun examples.
Types of Common Nouns
A common noun or generic noun can be a concrete noun, abstract noun, or collective noun. I know, it seems like a lot of different types of nouns, but they each have their purpose. For example, the collective noun team is also a common noun. The same is true with freedom and doctor.
Countable Nouns vs. Uncountable Nouns
Count nouns or countable nouns are nouns that can be quantified or counted. For example, you can count an apple or apples. You can also quantify a cup or cups. Some countable noun examples are telescope, manager, ice cream, and song.
Countable nouns require a or an for their singular forms. For example:
- I found a pin under my bed.
- A haircut is all I need before going to Santorini.
You also use a and an for singular forms when writing negative sentences. For example:
- I don’t need a haircut.
- I cannot buy a bag.
Uncountable nouns, mass nouns, or non-countable nouns are a type of noun that cannot be quantified or counted. A non-countable noun is always singular. Therefore, it uses singular verbs.
Some uncountable noun examples include wisdom, water, information, equipment, and garbage. For example:
- There is no water in the pool.
- She needs evidence of your ethnographic work.
- I need to buy gym equipment to stay fit.
What is a Possessive Noun?
A possessive noun is a noun that shows ownership. These words usually have an apostrophe and s in the end. For instance, in the phrase grandmother’s cookies, grandmother’s is a possessive noun.
What is a Head Noun?
A head noun is a noun modified by other words in the noun phrase. Identifying it lets you know which indefinite article to use. For example, a non-countable noun requires the instead of a or an.
What is a Noun Clause?
Let’s discuss more complex types of nouns. A noun clause is one that functions as a noun. It usually starts with that, how, what, who, whom, which, where, and why. The italicized part in this example is a noun clause.
- I think that it happened.
What is a Gender-Specific Noun?
Gender-specific nouns refer specifically to male and female names. Here are some examples of masculine nouns and their corresponding feminine nouns.
- Father, mother.
- Boy, girl.
- Prince, princess.
- Rooster, hen.
- Stallion, mare.
What are Verbal Nouns?
Verbal nouns are nouns that look like verbs. The main types of verbal nouns are infinitives and gerunds.
A gerund is a noun formed by using the -ing form of a verb. For example:
- Reading is my passion.
An infinitive is a verbal formed by using to + the base form of a verb. For example:
- To read is to learn.
Nouns as Subjects
A noun can function as a subject of a verb or the doer of an action. For example:
- Milo writes memoirs, essays, and romance fiction.
In this sentence, the proper noun Milo functions as the doer of the verb writes.
Nouns as Objects
A noun can even function as a direct object, object of verb, or the receiver of the action. Consider this sentence example.
- Raul drew a line.
The noun line receives the action drew. Line is the direct object of the sentence.
Nouns can also function as indirect objects or receivers of the direct object. For example:
- I offered Lorna a discount.
The noun Lorna receives the direct object discount. Therefore, Lorna is the indirect object of the sentence.
Nouns as Subject and Object Complements
A subjective complement is a noun function that follows a linking verb to describe the subject. Below is an example.
- Richard is an accountant.
In this sentence, the subject complement accountant identifies the subject, Richard.
Nouns can also function as object complements. An object complement follows a direct object to rename it. Below is an example.
- I saw Joan laughing at his joke.
Laughing at his joke is a noun phrase that starts with a gerund, laughing.
Appositive Nouns and Nouns as Modifiers
An appositive noun is a noun beside another noun to explain it. Compared to a subjective or objective complement, you won’t find the appositive beside a linking verb or direct object. For example:
- Your friend Jacky is visiting this weekend.
- Her favorite restaurant, Gallery by Jordan, offers the best cocktails.
Appositives can be set off with commas or not, depending on the length. You may also add commas if the information is not essential to the sentence’s meaning.
In grammar, a noun adjunct or attributive noun is a noun that modifies another noun. It functions similarly to an adjective.
For example, in the phrase “beef broth,” the noun beef functions as an adjective that modifies broth. Another example of a noun adjunct is ocean in “ocean view.”
Despite the first words functioning as adjectives, “beef broth” and “ocean view” are still noun phrases or compound nouns.
Singular Nouns vs. Plural Nouns
A singular noun is one that represents one person, place, animal, object, or event. Plural nouns denote more than one noun. Regular nouns only require -s or -es at the end of the word. Below are examples of words in singular form and plural form.
- Cellphone, cellphones.
- Ladle, ladles.
- Potato, potatoes.
Irregular nouns change their spelling when pluralized. Others don’t change at all when pluralized. For example:
- Ox, oxen.
- Child, children.
- Sheep, sheep.
- Species, species.
Remember that singular nouns require singular verbs, while plural nouns require plural verbs. For example:
- The cacti have been on our lawn since 2012.
- The focus of the poem is the ballerina.
Wrapping Up Nouns
Nouns are everywhere in writing, so it’s just right that you learn all about nouns. Nouns are words that name persons, places, objects, and ideas.
I hope my guide has explained the functions, types, and examples of nouns in an easy-to-understand way. Make sure to practice using nouns with the correct verb form, article, pluralization, and capitalization.