Count & No-count




Concrete         Abstract



Back to Exercises

A noun is a word used to name a person, animal, place, thing, or an abstract idea. Nouns are usually the first words learned when learning a language. A noun can function in a sentence as a subject, a direct object, an indirect object, a subject complement, an adjective, or an adverb.  

Noun Gender

Gender-specific nouns are very rare in English, anymore. Most common nouns can refer to either gender. You will still see some nouns (especially in writings of some years ago) that change form depending on the gender of the person being described: (waiter, waitress; actor, actress, comedian, comedienne, author, authoress; blond, blonde; host, hostess). Those that are still used tend to refer to occupational categories.


Possessive Nouns

Usually, a noun becomes possessive by adding a combination of an apostrophe and the letter "s". 

If a singular noun ends in s: To form the possessive, add just an apostrophe, or add an apostrophe and an s . When you say a word like foxes' or Jones', pronounce it as if it were the plural foxes or the singular Jones. (not like  foxes-es or Jones-es!!!)

With a plural noun that does not end in s,  the possessive is formed by adding an apostrophe and an s:

  With a plural noun that does end in s, the possessive is formed by adding an apostrophe:

Using Possessive Nouns

Nouns in the possessive case often act as adjectives describing or modifying another noun.

Boat’s modifies sails, and together with the article the, they form a noun phrase, which is the subject of the sentence.

The previous examples show a possessive noun modifying a gerund. (A gerund is a noun formed from a verb. To make a gerund, you add -ing to the verb. This is also how a present participle is formed, but a gerund acts as a noun. A participle acts as an adjective.) 

Types Of Nouns

The proper noun, common noun, concrete noun, abstract noun, countable noun, uncountable noun, and the collective noun. A noun can belong to more than one category. It can be proper or common, abstract or concrete, and also be countable, uncountable, or collective.


Proper Nouns

Proper nouns always begin with a capital letter because it represents the name of a specific person, place, or thing. The names of days of the week, months, historical documents, institutions, organizations, religions, holy texts, and people following a specific religion are proper nouns. A proper noun is the opposite of a common noun.

Common Nouns

Common nouns refer to persons, places, or things, used in a general sense. They are written with a capital letter only when they begin a sentence, or are part of a name, such as in an organization, a business, a newspaper, address, etc.  A common noun is the opposite of a proper noun.

Concrete Nouns

Concrete nouns name anything that you perceive through your physical senses: touch, sight, taste, hearing, or smell. A concrete noun is the opposite of an abstract noun.













Abstract Nouns

Abstract nouns cannot be perceived through the five physical senses, and are the opposite of concrete nouns. 












 Countable & Uncountable Nouns  (See separate section on these)

Collective Nouns

Collective nouns name groups of things, animals, or persons. The individual members of the group can be counted, but usually the group is thought of as a whole. In order to have subject-verb agreement, you need to know collective nouns. A collective noun is similar to an uncountable noun, and is roughly the opposite of a countable noun, but not always.  For the funny side of collective nouns, do a web search. There are several good sites.


Most English nouns are regular, and the spelling of the plural form is predictable: add s to the end of the singular form, or es to those singulars that end in ch or a sibilant sound (s, z, ts, x).


Add  s

Add es

boys     boys box     boxes
tree      trees swatch     swatches
pen     pens witch     witches
week     weeks stitch     stitches
cake     cakes fix     fixes

Some nouns have irregular plurals, and the forms must be memorized, one by one. In most cases there is a rule for forming the plural that depends on the spelling of the word. For instance: The plural of child is children. (not childs, nor childrens) The plural of ox is oxen (not oxes).



If the noun ends with y and the y isn't preceded by a vowel (or is not a proper name), the y  changes to i and the plural is formed by adding es.


Change y to ies Change y to ys
penny     pennies toys     toys
spy     spies day     days
study     studies play     plays
try     tries prey     preys
fly    flies key     keys
cherry     cherries boy     boys

The following nouns end in f or fe; the ending changes to ves. (This is not true of all nouns that end in f.)

calf     calves wolf     wolves
knife     knives thief     thieves
life     lives leaf     leaves
wife    wives self     selves
half     halves calf     calves
elf     elves hoof     hooves
shelf     shelves loaf     loaves
sheaf     sheaves scarf     scarves

For some nouns, the vowel sound changes in the plural. 

fireman     firemen
mouse     mice
goose     geese
woman     women
man     men
tooth     teeth
louse     lice


Nouns ending in o may take s or es  in the plural. Some can be formed both ways.


 Add s

Add es

Use s OR es

auto     autos hero    heroes zero     zeros     zeroes
kilo     kilos potato     potatoes motto     mottos     mottoes
solo     solos echo     echoes tornado     tornados     tornadoes
photo     photos veto     vetoes buffalo     buffalos     buffaloes
video     videos tomato     tomatoes volcano   volcanos   volcanoes
zoo     zoos mango    mangoes mosquito     mosquitos     mosquitoes
taco     tacos stereo    stereos cargo     cargos     cargoes

The following nouns are exactly the same in the singular and plural forms: 

 sheep, deer, moose, trout, perch, fish, cod, offspring, lynx, salmon, tuna.  

(Notice that many of those words are types of fish. The word fish is usually spelled the same way in the singular and the plural. Some religious texts use fishes. Many fish species have irregular plural forms. More than one shark, though, is sharks

The following nouns are used only in the plural (there are just a few exceptions):

barracks, crossroads, headquarters, dice, gallows, species, means, series, trousers, slacks



A noun with an ex or ix suffix changes to the original Latin plural, or to the the English common usage plural. You will come upon both forms. Some authors, people who work with legal matters, engineers and other professionals, or people in an academic setting say and write indices for the plural of the word index, i.e., the original Latin plural ending; others use the Americanized ending, indexes.


Noun Original Plural Americanized Plural
appendix appendices appendixes
index indices indexes
apex apices apexes
matrix matrices matrixes

Nouns ending in is change to es in the plural. The es ending is pronounced eez

thesis theses
basis* bases*
axis** axes**
analysis analyses
crisis crises
emphasis emphases
neurosis neuroses
oasis oases
diagnosis diagnoses








    *The plural bases is also the plural for the word base.

**The plural axes is also the plural for ax. BUT: The plural for ox is oxen.

There are many more Latin and other foreign language nouns, and are too numerous to list. Here are some  that became part of the English language, and end in a, us, and um.



amoeba amoebae amoebas
antenna antennae antennas
formula formulae formulas
cactus cacti cactuses
fungus fungi funguses
octopus octopi octopuses
curriculum curricula curriculum
medium media mediums
memorandum memoranda memorandums

These nouns change from  on to a:

criterion criteria
phenomenon phenomena
Some irregular foreign word plurals
libretto libretti
tempo tempi
virtuoso virtuosi
cherub cherubim
seraph seraphim
 alumna (female)

alumnus (male)

alumnae (plural


Know Your Nouns