What Is a Noun? | Definition of the Types of Nouns
- Grammar Lessons >
What Is a Noun?
A noun is a word that names a person, a place, an idea, or a thing.
How to Identify Nouns
As much as nouns are easy to define, it's not always so to identify them. However, some word endings can show that the word is a noun. Here are a few examples.
Quick tip: Some words like "sleep", "progress", and "attribute" can be both nouns and verbs. A close scrutiny of the context and pronunciation will reveal if these have been used as nouns or verbs.
Click on the Circles to Spot the Seven Nouns
Functions of Nouns
There are few roles that nouns can't do in a sentence. For instance, nouns can be subjects, subject complements, direct objects, indirect objects, object complements, appositives, and more. Here's a chart illustrating this point.
Types of Nouns
The common types of nouns are common and proper nouns, concrete and abstract nouns, countable and uncountable nouns (count nouns and mass nouns), singular and plural nouns, collective nouns, possessive nouns, and compound nouns. Gerunds are also nouns.
A common noun is a general and non-specific name, and it is not capitalized.
city, doctor, police, student, food
A proper noun is a specific or unique name, and it is always capitalized. Remember if a proper noun has multiple words in it, you should capitalize them all.
Kevin, Ava, Philadelphia, Heidi, Mount Everest
If we can experience a noun physically by seeing, smelling, tasting, hearing, or touching it, it's a concrete noun. It's also called a tangible noun.
phone, chocolate, cookies, song, rose
An abstract noun is the name of an emotion, state, concept, quality, or an event. It's also known as an intangible noun.
happiness, optimism, democracy, honesty, holiday
A countable noun refers to an item that can be counted. Countable nouns can be singular or plural, and are mostly used with one of the articles: a, an, or the, or quantifiers such as "a few" and "many".
a student, a dog, the cat, a few apples
An uncountable noun is one that can’t be counted. Nine times out of ten, uncountable nouns are used in singular forms, which means they either stand alone or are used with quantifiers like "some", "a little", etc.
information, time, advice, courage, a little weight
Quick tip: An easy way to distinguish between the countable and uncountable is we mostly use "how many" with the former, while we stick to "how much" with the latter.
How many countries have you visited?
How much sugar do you need?
A collective noun denotes a group of people, animals, ideas, animals, or things as a single entity.
a stack of books
a pack of wolves
a pile of stones
a committee of experts
A material noun denotes a material or substance from which something is made.
gold, iron, cotton, silver
Useful tip: A tried and tested technique to enhance your noun-awareness is to take a noun and analyze how many categories of noun it falls into. It's very common for nouns to have the features of multiple noun categories.
A possessive noun a noun that denotes ownership or possession.
Kim's cat, Kevin's class, the fruit's taste, cattle's pasture
A compound noun is a noun made with two or more words.
bedroom (bed and room)
sunrise (sun and rise)
passerby (passer and by)
A gerund is an English noun formed from a verb by adding -ing.
singing: Your singing amazed me.
Leaving: Gerald's leaving upset Miranda.
The number refers to the count of the noun.
A noun that refers to one item is called a singular noun.
A noun that refers to two or more items is called a plural noun.
Most of the time, plural nouns are formed by adding suffixes like -s or -es. In the case of irregular nouns, plurals are formed by changing vowels or changing the word.
All living things are either male or female. Nouns that denote males are called masculine gender and those that denote females are called feminine gender.
The feminine gender is derived by adding suffixes like -ess or replacing part of the word with another word. It is sometimes formed by using an entirely different word.
A noun that represents either a male or female is called common gender.
A noun that denotes neither a male or female is called neuter gender. All non-living things fall into this category.
Take a Noun Quiz Now!
Hone your skills using our free printable Noun Worksheets.