Noun (names)

A noun is a word or lexical item denoting any abstract (abstract noun: e.g. home) or concrete entity (concrete noun: e.g. house); a person (police officer, John), place (coastline, London), thing (neck-tie, television), idea (happiness), or quality (bravery). A noun is the most common part of speech and is also called as a naming word. In English, nouns are those words, which can occur with articles and attributive adjectives and can function as the head of a noun phrase.

Example nouns for:

– Living creatures (including people, alive, dead or imaginary): mushrooms, dog, Anglo-Indians, rosebush, Nelson Mandela, bacteria, snakes, etc.
– Physical objects: hammer, pencils, Earth, guitar, atom, stones, boots, shadow, etc.
– Places: closet, temple, river, Antarctica, houses, the Himalayas, India, etc.
– Actions: swimming, exercise, diffusion, explosions, flight, electrification, embezzlement, etc.
– Qualities: colour, length, deafness, weight, roundness, symmetry, warp speed, etc.
– Mental or physical states of existence: jealousy, sleep, heat, joy, stomachache, confusion, etc.
– Ideas or abstract entities: musicianship, cooperativeness, perfection, mathematics, impossibility, etc.

Nouns can be altered in two ways:

1. Make it plural by adding an ( s ). For example, book can be changed to books.
2. Make it possessive by adding an apostrophe (‘). For example, John can be changed to John’s . Among all the parts of speech, only nouns can take apostrophes.

Nouns can be classified as follows:

Proper nouns and common nouns
A proper noun or proper name is a noun representing unique entities. For example, India, Pegasus, Jupiter, Confucius, Aristotle, etc.

A common noun describes a class of entities. For example, country, animal, planet, person, ship, etc.

Countable and uncountable nouns
Count nouns or countable nouns are common nouns that can take a plural, can combine with numerals or counting quantifiers (e.g., one, two, several, every, most), and can take an indefinite article such as a or an. Examples of count nouns are chair, jug, flower, hand, event, etc.

Mass nouns or uncountable nouns or non-count nouns are common nouns that cannot take a plural, cannot combine with numerals or counting quantifiers (e.g., one, two, several, every, most), and cannot take an indefinite article such as a or an. Examples of non-count nouns are water, air, etc.
Note: Many nouns have both countable and uncountable uses; for example, soda is countable in “give me three sodas”, but uncountable in “he likes soda”.

Collective nouns
Collective nouns are nouns that – even when they are inflected for the singular – refer to groups consisting of more than one individual or entity. Examples include committee, government, and police.
“A committee was appointed to consider this subject.” (singular)
“The committee were unable to agree.” (plural)

Concrete nouns and abstract nouns
Concrete nouns refer to physical entities that can be observed by at least one of the senses (for instance, chair, apple, Janet or atom).

Abstract nouns, on the other hand, refer to abstract objects; that is, ideas or concepts (such as justice or hatred). In English, many abstract nouns are formed by adding a suffix (-ness, -ity, -ion) to adjectives or verbs. Examples are happiness (from the adjective happy), circulation (from the verb circulate) and serenity (from the adjective serene).

Note: Some nouns have both abstract and concrete senses, for example, view, filter, structure, key, etc.

Noun phrases

A phrase is a group of words. A noun phrase is a group of words based on a noun, pronoun, or other noun-like words (nominal), optionally accompanied by modifiers such as determiners and adjectives. A noun phrase functions within a clause or sentence in a role such as that of subject, object, or complement of a verb or preposition.

For example, in the sentence “The white puppy jumped on a friend of mine”, the noun phrase, “the white puppy” serves as the subject, and the noun phrase, “a friend of mine” serves as the complement of the preposition “on”.


Nominalisation is a process whereby a word that belongs to another part of speech comes to be used as a noun.

For example:
1. This legislation will have the most impact on the poor. (poor is an adjective but used as a noun)
2. The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. (swift and strong are adjectives, but used as nouns)
3. Fortune favours the brave. (brave is an adjective but used as a noun)

1. Baker, Mark. 2003, Lexical Categories: verbs, nouns, and adjectives. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
2. Borer, Hagit (2005). In Name Only. Structuring Sense. I. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
4. Lester, Mark; Beason, Larry (2005). The McGraw-Hill Handbook of English Grammar and Usage. McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-144133-6.

Walden University Video:

Video Transcript:

You probably heard this definition before that a noun is a person, place, or a thing. I want to highlight a few issues that can cause some problems in your writing. Now, there are two basic categories for nouns. Nouns can be proper. And a proper noun is a specific name, a specific name of a person of a country or a city or a language or company or an organization. All of these are examples of proper nouns. And proper nouns should be capitalized. And everything else that is not the specific name, is a common noun. These are more general items. If you take a look around your room right now, pretty much the majority of what you’re going to see is a common noun: My computer, my desk, my pencil, my books, my book shelf– all of those are common nouns. Concepts such as knowledge or business or money, all of those are common nouns. And so are fields of study such as science or academic words such as “bachelor’s degree” or “master’s degree.” All of those are considered common nouns and should not be capitalized. So we have a couple sample sentences here. “My dog is named Wendy.” and “I am a student at Walden University.” So the words “dog” and “student” those are general words, right. They’re not specific names, so those are common nouns and should not be capitalized. Whereas the words “Wendy” and “Walden University.” those are names and should be capitalized. And APA does have some guidelines when it comes to what is considered a proper noun versus a common noun. So for help determining whether a noun should be proper or common, that is, for help determining whether or not to capitalize a word, check out our guide to APA capitalization nuances.

So there’s one more distinction I want to bring up and that is that nouns can either be singular, which means there’s one of them, or plural, which means there’s more than one. Most nouns to make them plural, you just add an “s,” an “es,” or an “ies.” I bring this up because there are quite a few irregular plural nouns, especially with scholarly writing, and I’ve listed a few of those here. For example, the word “syllabus,” the plural of that word is not “syllabuses.” It’s “syllabi.” The word “criterion” is a singular noun, and the plural of that noun is “criteria.” The word “data” is actually a plural noun. The singular form of that is “datum.” And then finally, the word “thesis,” the plural of that word is “theses.” And so I’ll often see students make little errors with these irregular plural nouns, which is why I bring them up here. We have a link to a great resource on these irregular plural nouns. And one last tip when it comes to nouns and that is that when you’re speaking in general terms, it’s a good idea to stick to the plural. So for example, instead of saying [reading from slide] “a student should always try his or her best.” That makes it sound like you’re talking about one student. If you want to make it clear that you’re making a generalization, it’s better to stick to the plural, [reading from slide], “Students should always try their best.”

[Source: Walden University.

Test Your Knowledge

Click here to do the Exercise on Nouns

Now get more practice!

Click here to join R. J. Online Academy today!

Share your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.