Nouns refer name a person, place, thing, event, or idea. In the English language, nouns commonly function as the subject of the sentence. Nouns seem to be the simplest among the other parts of speech, yet it sometimes confuses a reader.
Let us have a quick review of the noun classes that you have learned in your elementary and high school.
Types of Nouns
- Common and Proper – Nouns that name a particular person, place, thing, event, or idea are what we refer to as Proper nouns. All the other nouns that present a general idea are Common nouns. Proper nouns always start with a capital letter.
- Concrete & Abstract – Concrete nouns are those which name something (or someone) that can be perceived by our senses: sight, smell, taste, hearing, or sight. Abstract nouns are the opposite of concrete nouns. They are the ideas that we understand even if we haven’t perceived them yet
- Count & Non-count– Count nouns are nouns that can have a singular or plural form. Moreover, you can also use an indefinite article (a, an) with them. On the other hand, Non-count nouns are those nouns that you cannot count. They are never plural nor singular and you cannot use the indefinite article with them.
- Collective Nouns– Collective noun is a noun naming a group of things, animals, or persons. The members of a group are countable, yet you usually regard the group as one. Hence, “a collective noun takes a singular verb when the group acts as a unit (see example 1); [while] it takes a plural verb when the members of the group act individually (see example 2)” (Hogue, 2000).
Proper, Common, and Collective Nouns
Proper nouns are capitalized and name specific persons, places, or things. Common nouns identify general categories and are not capitalized, even when used with proper nouns (IBM machines, Minolta cameras). Collective nouns refer to a group of people, animals, objects, or other units.
Functions of Nouns
Nouns can be used as the subject, direct object, and indirect object of a verb; as the object of a preposition; and as an adverb or adjective. Nouns can also show possession.
- The mail carrier always rings twice.
- Violets are spring flowers. (tells who or what does or is something)
- I finally sold my car. (tells what is sold)
Harold fed the cat another olive. (tells to whom he fed the olive)
Object of preposition:
- She gave directions over the phone. (tells what is the object of the preposition over)
- The train leaves today. (tells when)
The office building faces the mall. (tells what kind, which one)
- The parrot’s cage needs cleaning. My father’s brother is my uncle. (shows ownership or relationship)
Most nouns can be made plural by adding s to the singular form.
Collective Nouns. Collective nouns can be singular or plural depending on how they are used. When the group acts as a unit, the noun is considered singular. When the group acts as individual members, the noun is plural.
The management agrees with the new president.
The management have expressed different views.
The family is celebrating three birthdays this month.
The family are taking separate vacations.
Possessive nouns are used to indicate ownership or relationship.
Singular Possessive. To form the possessive of singular nouns, add ’s to all nouns.
the boy’s iPad
the hurricane’s path
Plural Possessive. To form the possessive of a plural noun that ends in s or es, add an apostrophe to the end of the word.
my sons’ children
the ships’ escorts
For nouns that form the plural any other way, add ’s to the end of the word.
Singular or Plural? To decide whether to place the apostrophe before or after the s, follow this simple rule: rephrase the sentence substituting an of phrase for the possessive noun to determine if the noun is singular or plural.
The (team’s, teams’) colors were on display.
colors of the team (singular)
colors of the teams (plural)
Individual and Joint Ownership. To show individual ownership, make both nouns in the sentence possessive. To show joint ownership, make only the final noun possessive.
- Mark’s and Arlene’s cell phones were stolen. (Each person had a cell phone that was stolen.)
- Mark and Arlene’s cell phone was stolen. (The cell phone belonged to both Mark and Arlene.)
In individual ownership, the noun following the possessive is generally plural (cell phones). In joint ownership, the noun is usually singular (cell phone). Look for this clue when deciding whether to use joint or individual possessive forms.