Have you ever wondered what a noun is and how important nouns are in the English language? Well, look no further. In this article, we’re going to explain what nouns are, how you can use them, and the purpose and usability of each type of noun. Are you ready?
There are many categories of nouns in English, it’s disputed whether there are 7 or 20 different types! However, one thing is for sure, knowing your nouns will help you learn English as a foreign language a lot easier.
Nouns are essentially words that help you gain information about something in a clause, or sentence, whether it’s an independent clause or a dependent one.
A clause is a group of words that come together to make meaning, basically an academic way of saying ‘sentence.’ A clause can be independent or dependent - if a clause is independent it means the information given can be understood without the need for extra information and, so for example with the sentence;
It contains a finished action and is a complete independent clause. It contains a capital letter to start and ends with punctuation to finish.
On the other hand, a dependent clause is a sentence that requires additional information to be understood. For example;
This isn’t a completed action because it uses the word when. It is dependent on more information to complete the sentence leaving you to question what will happen when they pick up the pen?
Nouns help to identify indirect or direct objects, inanimate objects, people, places, things, and animals, or even abstractly, to convey meaning, ideas, or feelings in clauses. All types of nouns can be placed into two main categories; common and proper.
‘Common nouns’ are the first category of nouns we are going to look at, and are called ‘common’ because they are exactly that, very commonly named. In fact, they are used so much that you will have seen and heard them without realizing it. They refer to a person, a place, an object, a collective or group, or an idea in an independent clause or a dependent one. They are useful when referring to general things, rather than very specific ones. It’s also worth noting that ‘common nouns’ aren’t capitalized unless they are placed at the beginning of a clause, or are in a title.
Now we know what ‘common nouns’ are, let’s take a look at the different sub-categories within them:
You can see with the ‘common noun’ examples that they don’t name a specific place, thing, or object. They simply refer to the object, person, or collective in a very generic way.
Next up. We have ‘proper nouns.’ These nouns refer to things specifically; they name people, places, objects, or groups/organizations but in a far less generalized fashion.
As you can see, ‘proper nouns’ are always capitalized, this is because they are used when naming countries, people or animal names, cities, or days of the week. For example;
These examples show the simplicity that proper nouns bring. Often, clauses are shorter, less vague, and only contain the necessary information.
Though all English nouns can be classified into proper or common, it’s important to know how to use and identify different categories of nouns when reading and writing so you can understand their importance. Nouns can be singular or plural, uncountable or uncountable, abstract or relative, or even reflexive. Hang on in there, we’ll give you a few examples of these types of nouns.
‘Collective nouns’ as we have seen can be proper or common. In the case of proper nouns, it refers to a set group of people, things, groups, or organizations. Music groups and big organizations are referred to as collective nouns because they are made up of a group of people.
‘Collective nouns’ are often followed by ‘Of’ + Plural Noun, so for example:
‘Concrete nouns’ are words that refer to physical things that can be perceived by our primary senses. This includes being seen, touched, or heard. They can be ‘proper nouns,’ or ‘common nouns,’ but can’t refer to abstract qualities, states, or actions. Here are some concrete noun examples:
An ‘abstract noun’ can be a common or proper noun. It tells you an idea, concept, feeling, or emotion that isn’t able to be seen or touched in a literal sense. For example:
Now, ‘relative nouns’ also functioning as ‘relative pronouns’ are sneaky ones because they can help you to identify the noun that was used previously. In other words, they refer back to the nouns already mentioned in the clause, for example:
As you can see, the use of the ‘relative nouns’ in these sentences helps the reader to refer back to a previously mentioned noun.
‘Reflexive nouns’ or pronouns are exactly what they say, they refer or flex back to the object of a verb. We can use ‘reflexive nouns’ to refer to the direct object of a sentence for example:
‘Reflexive nouns’ are used to add context and information to a sentence and can be a great literary device, for example:
Leading us to question what happened.
These types of nouns can be singular or plural.
|Singular Reflexive Nouns||Plural Reflexive Nouns|
|Myself, Yourself, Itself, Herself, and Himself.||Yourselves, Themselves, and Ourselves.|
‘Compound nouns’ are super interesting, as they take other English writing devices, and incorporate them into a whole new word, a ‘noun phrase.’ Types of compound nouns always include a ‘common noun,’ but can additionally include a verb, adjective, or even a second noun. ‘Compound nouns’ give more information and context to the original word, and you’ll find them being used in English all the time.
Noun + Noun
Verb + Noun
Adjective + Noun
‘Attributive nouns,’ also known as ‘noun adjuncts,’ are nouns that modify other nouns by giving them additional attributes. These are different from ‘compound nouns’ as they don’t create a new word, they simply give more information, and attributes, to an existing noun, also known as the ‘head noun.’ Here are a few examples:
In English, nouns can either be counted or can’t. A noun that can be counted usually has an ‘s’ on the end of it, to indicate that it has been pluralized. ‘Countable nouns’, also known as ‘count nouns’, can also have an additional word before them, which gives you more detail about how much/many of the particular nouns there are. Here are some examples:
On the other hand, some English words can not be counted or pluralized. These words are called ‘uncountable nouns’, or sometimes, ‘mass nouns,’ or ‘non-count nouns’. These nouns can’t be altered or pluralized with an ‘s’ and only have a singular entity. Here are some uncountable noun examples:
Now, that was a lot to take in, but as we wrap up, you should have a good understanding of how nouns work, the many different types of noun entities that exist, and which ones you’ll be using to improve your English. The study of language takes time, and you shouldn’t expect to be an expert straight away, this stuff is tough! Just remember to focus on the nouns you struggle with; learn from the examples, repeat them in your day-to-day life, and in no time you’ll be a noun master. Good luck!