Knowing What Nouns Can Do

The Definition of a Noun

A noun may be defined simply as a naming word that names something.

The something that a noun names may be:
  1. Animate or inanimate thing with physical existences such as person, animal, plant, tree, cow, stone, village, winner, etc.
  2. Abstract or spiritual entity including love, goodwill, passion, honesty, justice, faith, etc.
  3. Some quality or property associated to an object such as density, color, weight, thickness, etc.
  4. Action which may include cooking, singing, dancing, clapping, jumping, etc.

In the case of nouns identifying actions, perhaps it is helpful to point something in sentence 1) and 2) below,

  1. Studying is necessary to pass the exam. →(In this sentence, Studying is a noun—a specific sort of noun known as GerundOpens in new window—because it is the name of an action and is the subject of the verb is; but notice also in 2):
  2. He was studying all day.→Here, studying is not a noun: in this usage, it is a part of the verb was studying, which tells what he was doing.

Using Nouns to identify people, places or things

Classification of Nouns

A.  Classes of Nouns

Nouns are broadly classed into two classes:

  1. Common nouns and
  2. Proper nouns.

1.   Common Noun

A common noun Opens in new window is the naming word that names all the members of a class of objects—that is, the name is common to all the members of the class: as, country, state, man, bank, lake.

2.   Proper Noun

A proper noun Opens in new window is the naming word that distinctively names an individual member of a class: as, Virginia (a member of the class of state), Germany (country), William (male), Erie (lake).

The word proper is derived from the word “property” and has the meaning of “one’s own.” In writing, proper nouns are capitalized.

B.  Special Classes

The two classes—common and proper—cover all nouns, but included in these two are some special types, as the following:

1.   Abstract Noun

An abstract noun Opens in new window is a naming word that names a cognitive or abstract entity: as, benevolence, courtesy, trust, tranquility, compassion, empathy, strength, resilience, etc.

2.   Collective Noun

A collective nounOpens in new window is a naming word that names a collection or group of similar objects: as, management, club, team, herd, mob, army, etc.

3.   Concrete Noun

Concrete nounsOpens in new window refer to things that have some kind of actual physical form including people and animals, concrete objects that we can perceive through our senses —that is, concrete nouns can be touched, felt, held, seen, smelt, taste, or be heard.

Depending on the context, concrete nouns may be variously categorized as countable (birds, plants, houses, etc.) or uncountable (snow, water, flood, etc.). Concrete noun is the opposite of abstract noun.

4.   Compound Noun

Compound noun Opens in new window is a combination of two or more existing nouns or other parts of speech Opens in new window: as, grandmother, highway, businessman, commander–in–chief, brother–in–law, sales department, payroll, Marriott Hotel, Apple Computer, etc.

5.   Countable Noun

A countable nounOpens in new window is a naming word that names something that can be counted and may be either physical or abstract: as, pencil (pencils); mouse (mice); idea (ideas); datum (data); school (schools) etc.

6.   Uncountable Noun

Uncountable nounOpens in new window is also called mass noun. It’s the naming word that names something that cannot be counted and is used only in the singular; it may or may not abstract: as, clutter, wisdom, silence, satisfaction, music, etc.

Properties of Noun

Nouns have three properties which include: Number,Opens in new window Gender,Opens in new window and Case.Opens in new window

Principal Functions of Nouns

The principal functions that nouns may serve in sentence includes:

Subject of a VerbOpens in new windowSubject ComplementOpens in new window
Predicate NounOpens in new windowDirect Object of a VerbOpens in new window
Objective ComplementOpens in new windowNominative AbsoluteOpens in new window
Indirect Object of a VerbOpens in new windowDirect AddressOpens in new window
Object of a PrepositionOpens in new windowAppositionOpens in new window

Examples, in accordance to these headings include:

Noun as Subject of a Verb
  • Mr. Briggs speaks rapidly.
  • Mr. Briggs is a noun functioning as Subject.
  • Noun's job is the do-er of the action “speaks”
Noun as Subject Complement
  • Peterson is my uncle.
  • uncle is a noun functioning as Subject Complement.
  • The Noun's job is complement of the subject “Peterson”

Note that a subject complement can be a predicate nominative or a predicate adjective.

Noun as Predicate Noun (Predicate Nominative)
  • Mr. Briggs became president
  • president is a noun functioning as Predicate Nominative.
  • Noun's job is renaming the subject “Mr. Briggs”
Noun as Direct Object
  • Andy bought a gift.
  • gift is a noun functioning as Direct Object.
  • The Noun's job is receiver of the verb's action “bought”.
Noun as Object Complement
  • They made Alli captain
  • Alli is a noun functioning as Direct Object.
  • captain is a noun functioning as Object Complement.
  • The Object complement's job is complementing the direct object Alli
Noun as Nominative Absolute
  • The truck finally loaded, they said goodbye to their neighbors and drove off.
  • The phrase “The truck finally loaded” consists of a noun “the truck” and some modifiers (finally loaded).
  • The phrase serves Nominative absolute modifying the rest of the sentence.

Noun as Indirect Object
  • Andy bought Gretchen a gift.
  • Gretchen is a noun functioning as Indirect Object.
  • The Noun's job is the receiver of the direct object “gift”.
Noun as Direct Address
  • James, did you get the phone?
  • James is a noun functioning as Noun of Direct Address.
  • The Noun's job is, it names the listener “James”.
Noun as Object of Preposition
  • Joel drove across the bridge.
  • Bridge is a noun functioning as Object of Preposition.
  • The Noun's job is, it follows the preposition “across”.
Noun as an Appositive
  • Brenda, my neighbour, has a dog
  • neighbour is a noun functioning as Appositive Noun.
  • The Noun's job is, it renames the noun (subject) “Brenda”.