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Language Arts

Nouns Overview



This overview on nouns has information on noun word forms, common nouns, proper nouns, count nouns, non-count nouns, concrete nouns, abstract nouns, noun phrases, and how to form singular or plural nouns.

Nouns are often defined as words that name persons (Ms. Landowski, pharmacist, child) places (river, Darfur, Mulberry St.), things (jaguar, isotope, plié), or ideas (justice, truth, fairness). Nouns often appear as part of a noun phrase. Words that can substitute for a noun are called pronouns.

Noun Word Forms

You can often recognize nouns by their form because a number of them have characteristic endings.

-age

baggage

-er/-or

miner, councilor

-ing

meeting

-ist

dramatist

-ity

asperity

-ment

monument

-ness

fondness

-tion

exposition

Common and Proper

Common nouns are unspecific references. They can be made specific in several ways: by modification and by substituting a proper noun, that is, one that names a particular person, place, or thing. Proper nouns are distinguished from common nouns by being capitalized.  Here are some examples:

Common Noun

Proper Nouns

zoo

Bronx Zoo, San Diego Zoo

person

the Garcias, Ludwig van Beethoven

day

Tuesday, Sunday

country

Afghanistan, Australia, Portugal

queen

Queen Elizabeth II, Anne Boleyn

Count and Non-Count

Common nouns may be countable or non-count. Non-count nouns have one form, though they are treated as singular for the sake of subject-verb agreement. The name means that, unlike other nouns, if you were given the task of counting them, you would be confused. In addition, it would sound wrong to say something like, “There are five ______.” Examples of nouns that are count and non-count include:

Count Nouns

Non-Count Nouns

pickles

cheese

chicken pox

health

kilobytes

information

concertos

music

articles

news

teacups

tea

We use words like some or appropriate measurements (hunks, pieces, teaspoons, etc.) to talk about amounts of these items. But you won’t find anyone saying, “one news, two news(es), etc.

Forming the Singular and Plural

Common nouns that are countable have both a singular and a plural form. Plural nouns may represent any number of what is named from two up. So the word armadillos could refer to two armadillos, nineteen armadillos, one hundred and thirty-five armadillos, or all the armadillos in the entire world. Generally an ending is added to the singular form to create the plural, although some nouns have the same form for both the singular and the plural and others have interior changes.

The plural of regular nouns is created by adding -s or -es to the end of the singular form, like this:

night --->nights

fortune --->fortunes

glass --->glasses

Most nouns that end in y change the y to i and add -es.

penny --->pennies

Irregular nouns form their plurals in a variety of ways:

woman --->women

goose --->geese

father-in-law --->fathers-in-law

child --- >children

louse --->lice

Note that some plurals may seem irregular to us because both the singular and plural forms entered English from another language. For example, the word beau, which came into English from French, may have either a regular plural, beaus, or the French plural form, beaux.

Case

Nouns do not differ in form when placed in the subject and object positions in English, but there is a possessive form, which is generally formed by adding ’s (apostrophe s) to the singular and (apostrophe) to the plural. Possession can also be shown with the pronoun of. Here are some examples of the two methods of forming the genitive case in English:                     

Noun

Singular Possessive

Plural Possessive

Singular With of

Plural With of

boy

boy’s

boys’

of the boy

of the boys

Maria

Maria’s

 

of Maria

 

the Woods

 

the Woods’

 

of the Woods

Abstract and Concrete

Abstract nouns are distinguished by referring to what is neither perceptible nor tangible, while concrete nouns usually are both perceptible and tangible. Abstract nouns can name qualities, such as truth, as well as actions, such as journeying, that are difficult to pin down to a moment. Most abstract nouns are non-count nouns. Here are some examples of concrete and abstract nouns.

Concrete Noun

Abstract Noun

judge

justice

treaty

peace

philosopher

thought

Noun Phrases

In talking about sentence construction, the term noun phrase is used to mean “a noun and any modifiers it might have with it.” This means that a noun by itself is also considered a noun phrase for the sake of grammatical discussion. Additionally, a noun replacement (such as a pronoun) can either be or be part of a noun phrase.

In either case - whether the noun or noun substitute is accompanied by any other words - the noun or noun substitute is referred to as the head of the phrase. This is a noun phrase:

The very large, furry orange cat

So is this:

I

Noun phrases can fulfill several important roles in sentences. The can be the subject of the sentence, the direct object of the sentence, the indirect object of the sentence, or the predicate nominative of the sentence, for example. Here is an example for each of these:

Subject: My favorite color is green.

Direct Object: Troy ate a large, gooey, chocolate-covered doughnut.

Indirect Object: Dominick gave his new robot instructions.

Predicate Nominative: George Washington was the first president.

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Acronyms Homonyms