|Count & No-count|
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.
small furry rodents. (Nouns are cats and
rodents. Cats is the subject; rodents is
the direct object.)
Mr. Magoo was a cartoon character.
(Mr. Magoo is a proper noun; cartoon
is a common noun acting as an adjective; character is a common noun.)
Airport security checked all the passengers'
tickets. (The nouns are: airport—acting as
an adjective; security acting as the subject; passengers’ acting
as an adjective; tickets acting as a direct object.)
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.
Usually, a noun becomes possessive by adding a combination of an apostrophe and the letter "s".
The dog was Ned’s.
The plum-colored van with the flowers painted on it
was the hippy’s.
Greg’s mother had
to use her loudest voice when she tried to wake him in the mornings.
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!!!)
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!!!)
foxes' (foxes's) den was over the hill.
Jones’ (Jones’s) house burned down last
With a plural noun that does not end in
s, the possessive is formed by adding an apostrophe and an
suspenders were red.
squealing kept Reba awake all night.
All the geese’s
feathers were grayish-white.
With aplural noun that does end in s, the possessive is formed by adding an apostrophe:
The dogs' howling, the cats’ yowling, the bears’
The hens’ nesting, the rabbits’ resting, the cops’
The babies’ crying, the trees’ dying, the husbands’
The singers’ crooning, the lovers’ spooning, the daredevils’ ballooning
in the possessive case often act as adjectives describing or modifying
The boat’s sails
were tattered and dirty.
Boat’s modifies sails, and together
with the article the, they form a noun phrase, which is the
subject of the sentence.
The dogs’ howling, the cats’ yowling, etc.
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.
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.
Vikings discovered North America long before
Columbus was born.
“Sunday’s child is full of grace,” begins an old
(Sunday is a day of the week.)
Many religions have some sort of special holiday
observance in the month of December. (
(December is the name of a month.)
The Bible, the Talmud, and the Qu'ran are all highly
revered teachings. (
(The Bible, the Talmud, and the Qu'ran are names of holy texts. There are other holy texts used in other religions.)
The World Health Organization is a part of the
United Nations. (
(The World Health Organization and the United Nations are names of organizations or groups.)
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.
The residents along Elm Street don’t have nightmares
anymore. ( )
(elm and street are both common nouns, but are the name of a particular place.
Sarah liked to eat at the Bowl and Roll Restaurant
because they had organic food. (
(bowl, roll, and restaurant are common nouns used in the name of a business.)
The Dark Ages came before the Renaissance. (
(renaissance, dark (adjective), and ages are common nouns, but here they're used as specific historic eras.)
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 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 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.
A flock of sheep grazes on the hillside.
(The collective noun flock takes the singular verb grazes.)
“An army travels on its stomach” is an old
(In this example, the collective noun army is the subject of the sentence that's a direct quote.)
The jury was in deliberation longer than the
lawyer had anticipated. (
(jury is a collective noun, and takes the singular was.)
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).
|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.
Nouns ending in o may take s or es in the plural. Some can be formed both ways.
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
Meet me at the crossroads. (You may also hear or read crossroad to mean 'intersection'.)
The general is at his headquarters. (Not headquarter!)
It's your turn to roll the dice. (die is the singular, but is rarely used---except in a game where only one die is used. Dice are referred to as a pair of dice, or just dice)
Where are my new trousers/slacks/pants? (Trousers, slacks, and pants are always in the plural form when used as nouns. The only time we use trouser or slack or pant is when the word is being used as an adjective to describe a woman's clothes: "I like her new slack (or trouser, or pant) suit." )
We have the means to do this. (Always plural)
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|
Nouns ending in is change to es in the plural. The es ending is pronounced eez
*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.
These nouns change from on to a:
|Some irregular foreign word plurals|
Know Your Nouns