What is a noun?

A noun is a part of speech that refers to a person, place, thing, or idea:

  • Person: Nouns can denote generic types of people (boy, girl, doctor, lawyer, etc.) and specific people (Nick, Jan, Dr. Smith, Mr. Jones, etc.).
  • Place: Nouns can identify general places (city, state, country, etc.) or specific ones (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States, etc.).
  • Thing: Things include objects that can be identified through one of the five senses (dog, bee, flower, etc.).
  • Idea: Ideas consist mainly of beliefs or concepts that are abstract and cannot be explained using the five senses (patience, friendship, peace, etc.).

What is a noun - definition

Noun grammar

Both nouns (single words) and noun phrases (multiple words) can often be combined with a determiner (a, the, this, etc.) to be the subject or object of a verb or the object of a preposition.

Depending on its use in a sentence, a noun can function as a subject, direct object, indirect object, subject complement, object complement, or gerund. Nouns can usually be replaced with a pronoun (it, her, he, etc.).

Types of nouns

Overall, there are 11 different types of nouns, which include the following:

  • Singular nouns and plural nouns
  • Common nouns and proper nouns
  • Abstract nouns and concrete nouns
  • Countable and uncountable nouns
  • Possessive nouns
  • Collective nouns
  • Compound nouns

Types of nouns

Singular and plural nouns

A singular noun names a single person, place, or thing; a plural noun indicates multiple people, places, or things. Most singular forms of nouns become plural by adding an -s to the end of the word.

If a singular noun ends in -s, -ss, -sh, -ch, -x, or -z, adding an -es makes the plural form:

Singular and plural noun examples
Singular nouns Plural nouns
Person/People Girl Girls
Place(s) House Houses
Thing(s) Glass Glasses

Singular and plural noun types

Common and proper nouns

Common nouns reference a general person, place, or thing; proper nouns reference particular people, places, or things. Proper nouns start with capital letters, while common nouns do not:

Proper and common noun examples
Common noun Proper noun
Person Man and woman Jim and Jane
Place state New York
Thing clock Big Ben

Common and proper noun types

Abstract and concrete nouns

Concrete nouns denote a person, place, or thing that can be perceived through one of the five senses:

  • heart
  • child
  • book

Abstract nouns, however, cannot be identified by any of the senses; they signify ideas, qualities, and beliefs:

  • Love
  • Childhood
  • Wisdom

Abstract and compound noun types

Countable and uncountable nouns

Countable nouns identify individual people, places, and things that can be counted:

  • cup
  • soldier
  • picture

Uncountable nouns are not individual objects and, therefore, cannot be counted:

  • water
  • patriot
  • memories

Countable and uncountable noun types

Possessive nouns

Possessive nouns own or possess something. Almost all nouns become possessive with the addition of an apostrophe "s." Plural nouns ending in "s" only need a possessive apostrophe at the end of the word:

Rachel → Rachel's

teachers → teachers'

Possessive noun type

Collective nouns

A collective noun, or mass noun, represents a group of people, animals, things, places, or ideas. Examples of collective nouns include the following:

Examples of collective nouns
People Animals Things
family heard (cattle) batch
class pack (wolves) cluster
team school (fish) pile

Collective nouns type

Compound nouns

A compound noun consists of two or more words that combine to form a new noun. The words that create the compound noun do not need to be nouns themselves:

Examples of collective nouns
Structure Examples
noun + noun bedroom
verb + noun swimming pool
adjective + noun coffee cup

Compound noun type

Noun examples

The top 50 most common nouns in the English language include the following:

Top 50 most common nouns in English
1. time 11. work 21. area 31. week 41. business
2. year 12. life 22. company 32. member 42. night
3. people 13. woman 23. problem 33. end 43. eye
4. way 14. system 24. service 34. state 44. home
5. man 15. case 25. place 35. word 45. question
6. day 16. part 26. hand 36. family 46. information
7. thing 17. group 27. party 37. fact 47. power
8. child 18. number 28. school 38. head 48. change
9. Mr. 19. world 29. country 39. month 49. interest
10. government 20. house 30. point 40. side 50. development

Nouns in sentences

Provided below are example sentences for each main type of noun:

  • Singular Noun: The dog spent the day chasing a squirrel.
  • Plural Noun: The cats enjoyed staying inside all day.
  • Common Noun: Randy's birthday was last month.
  • Proper Noun: Maria's birthday is in May.
  • Abstract Noun: Isaac cherished his childhood memories.
  • Concrete Noun: Lisa would also skip stones across the lake.
  • Countable Noun: Ron drank two cups of coffee at breakfast.
  • Uncountable Noun: Julie splashed Nate with water.
  • Possessive Noun: She complimented Josefina’s skirt.
  • Collective Noun: The family enjoyed the road trip to Yellowstone.
  • Compound Noun: All of the fireflies lit up the backyard.

What you learned:

After working your way through this lesson and video, you have learned:

  • The definition of a noun
  • Different types of nouns
  • How nouns are used
  • Examples of nouns in sentences and some of the most common nouns
Instructor: Malcolm M.
Malcolm has a Master's Degree in education and holds four teaching certificates. He has been a public school teacher for 27 years, including 15 years as a mathematics teacher.

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