The simplest definition of a noun is a thing and nouns are the basic building blocks of sentences. These things can represent a person, animal, place, idea, emotion – almost any thing that you can think of. Dog, Sam, we, love, phone, Chicago, courage and spaceship are all nouns. The more nouns you know in a language, the better you will be able to communicate your ideas. Here, we’ll take a closer look at what makes a noun a noun, and we’ll provide some examples of how nouns are used.
Noun examples: respect, faith, apple, seashore, peanut, motorcycle
Noun examples in the following sentences are in bold for easy identification.
There are several categories of nouns, and there can be an overlap across the categories. For example, there are common and proper nouns, and concrete and abstract nouns, yet some nouns are both concrete and common, or concrete and proper. It will become clear as you read on.
Common nouns are the words that refer to most general things: country, evening, laughter, puppy, umbrella
Common noun examples in the following sentences are in bold for easy identification.
Proper nouns are the name that identifies someone or something, a person or a place. Proper nouns are capitalized. John is a proper noun, since the word John represents a particular, single example of a thing, John.
Proper noun examples: Mary, Jimmy, Aunt Audrey, Honda, Philadelphia
Proper noun examples in the following sentences are in bold for easy identification.
Concrete nouns represent a thing that is real and tangible: pig, person, rock, smell, air, soup, Larry are all concrete nouns.
Concrete noun examples: cup, computer, diamond, rollercoaster, shampoo, Debby
Concrete noun examples in the following sentences are in bold for easy identification.
An abstract noun represents a thing that is more like a concept or idea: love, integrity, democracy, friendship, beauty, knowledge are examples of abstract nouns.
Abstract noun examples in the following sentences are in bold for easy identification.
Nouns can also be categorized as countable or uncountable.
A countable noun is a thing can be numbered or counted: airplane, sock, bowl, noodle, teacher, as in two airplanes, three socks, 1000 noodles.
Countable noun examples: peach, horse, shirt, telescope
Countable noun examples in the following sentences are in bold for easy identification.
Uncountable nouns can have a quantity or amount but cannot be actually counted: water, music, clothes, understanding. In the second example above, tons is a countable noun, but coal is not. Coal is referred to as an uncountable noun.
Uncountable noun examples: hate, confidence, attractiveness, wisdom
Uncountable noun examples in the following sentences are in bold for easy identification.
Collective nouns refer to a group of people or things: audience, team, bunch, family, class. When speaking of collective nouns, Americans consider them as singular, using singular verbs with them, such as the group dances happily. When speaking British English, both singular verbs and plural verbs might be used, as in the group dance crazily before the Queen.
Collective noun examples: government, jury, team, bunch, school, class, and room (the people in the room or building)
Collective noun examples in the following sentences are in bold for easy identification.
As mentioned above, when we talk of categories of nouns, some nouns can be described as being in more than one category. Some nouns are concrete and countable, for example, such as raindrops and wedding rings, while some are proper and uncountable, such as the Atlantic Ocean and Alaska.
The same noun can appear in different forms, depending on how it is used.
A countable noun can be singular or plural. Most nouns in English form the plural by adding -s or -es to the noun, although there are some exceptions:
Uncountable nouns and proper nouns are always considered to be singular:
Nouns can also indicate ownership. This form of a noun is called a possessive noun, and is indicated by an apostrophe and the letter –s. It is equivalent to using the word of and the noun.
Note that when the noun already ends with -s, possession is indicated by adding only an apostrophe – hunters’ guns, not hunters’s guns.
A noun can be used as the subject of a sentence, or in another capacity as an object:
Sometimes nouns are used as adjectives, which is referred to as a noun adjunct. In fact, English is amazingly flexible in that almost any noun can also be used as an adjective, though sometimes the use is considered comical or slangy: