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What is a Noun?

Nouns are the biggest word class in English and the word class gets bigger every day as new words
are incorporated into the language. Words to do with innovations in technology like 'spyware' and 'blog',
for example, are relatively new additions to our dictionaries.
So lets look at nouns more closely. Firstly, nouns can be divided into proper nouns and common
Proper nouns are the names of people like 'John' or 'Sarah', the names of places like 'London' or
'Moscow', and the names of institutions like the 'Red Cross'. Days of the week like 'Tuesday', months of
the year like 'April', nationalities like 'Spanish', and languages like 'Catalan' are also considered to be
proper nouns. How do we recognise a proper noun? It starts with a capital letter.
Nouns that are not proper nouns are common nouns like 'man', 'child', 'chair', 'apartment'.
Common nouns can be singular or plural: 'one chair', 'two chairs'. Most nouns have a plural that ends in
's': 'apartment', 'apartments'. But there are many irregular plural forms, for example: 'man', 'men'; 'child',
Words and the way they work together to form sentences create the grammatical system of the
language, so it may be useful to think about where nouns come in sentences and what they are used
Nouns act as the subject of a sentence, for example, 'Birds sang in the trees'. The sentence is about
birds so birds are the subject.
Nouns also act as the object of a sentence, for example, 'Birds sang songs in the trees'. It is songs that
the birds sang so songs are the object.
Nouns often follow an article like 'the' or 'an' or 'a'. And they often follow adjectives.
Concrete nouns can be seen, touched or measured. Nouns which can't be seen, touched or measured
are called abstract nouns.
Countable and uncountable nouns.
We call nouns countable because we can count the number of things. For example, we can count the
number of apples we see. Countable nouns can be singular or plural. Singular countable nouns
have a, an or the in front of them. Plural countable nouns usually end in s and can have a number in
front of them, e.g. five apples.
Uncountable nouns are things we cant count like advice, information, water or air. They dont have a
plural form: we cant say advices. And they are not used with a or an: we cant say an information (we
say some information).
Some words can be countable or uncountable, depending on their meaning in context. For example, in
Task 2, experience is uncountable when we are talking about the teachers general experience (she
has a lot of experience), but its countable when we are talking about particular events (I've had many
strange experiences in my life). When we want to quantify uncountable nouns, we use phrases like a
bag of (flour), a piece of(advice, information) or a drop of (water).
Concrete and abstract nouns.
Concrete nouns can be seen, touched or measured.
Collective nouns
These are nouns that refer to a group of people, for example family, audience, team and government.
Compound nouns.
A compound noun combines two or more words into a new word with a related meaning. Compound
words may be written as one word (bedroom), separate words (alarm clock) or separate but
hyphenated words (brother-in-law).
Possessive nouns. We add an apostrophe (') and s to a noun to make it possessive. This shows that
what follows the noun belongs to it. For example, in Johns book, the book belongs to John. In singular
nouns and irregular plural nouns the apostrophe comes before the s as in Johns or mens. In regular
plural nouns ending in an s the apostrophe comes after e.g. parents.
Pronouns are used instead of nouns in a sentence, often because the noun has already been
mentioned and it would be repetitive to use it again, e.g. I saw John yesterday. He looked very well. We
use the pronoun he to avoid repeating the name John.
Now let's look at determiners. A determiner is a type of word that comes before a noun. They limit or
clarify the meaning of the noun. For example, in the sentence I've lost my hat, my is a determiner.
Some pronouns and demonstrative pronouns like her and this are also determiners. They go before a
noun to give more information.
As covered in the lesson nouns, nouns are naming words. There are several different kinds of nouns. This page describes the most common
Common Nouns
A common noun is the word used for a class of person, place or thing.
Common nouns are further classified into:
Abstract nouns # things you cannot see or touch $e.g., bravery, %oy&
Collective nouns # words to describe groups $e.g., team, choir&
Compound nouns # nouns made up of more than one word $e.g., court'martial, pickpocket, water bottle&
Concrete nouns # things you can see or touch $e.g., tree, cloud&
(on'countable nouns $mass nouns& # things you cannot count $e.g., food, music&
)ender'specific nouns # words which are definitely male or female $e.g., vixen, actress&
*erbal nouns $gerunds& # nouns that represent actions $e.g., running, guessing&
Proper Nouns
A proper noun is the name of a person, place or thing $i.e., its own name&. A proper noun always starts with a capital letter.
,ayton +eace Accord
-nited (ations
The Tower of .ondon
-ncle )eorge$Uncle is written with a capital letter because it is part of his name.&
y favourite auntie is Auntie /ally. $0n this example, the first auntie is a common noun, but the second Auntie is part of a proper noun.&
The 1ed .ion
/ee also: Capital .etters for +roprer (ouns but (ot Common (ouns
Collective Nouns
A collective noun is the word used for a group of people or things.
Cabinet $of ministers&
The big 3uestion with collective nouns is whether they should be treated as singular or plural. The answer is: They can be treated as singular or
plural depending on the sense of your sentence. This is covered in more depth in the lesson Collective (ouns # /ingular or +lural4 and in
the Beware section on the right of this page.
A pronoun is a word used to replace a noun.
+ronouns are one of the eight parts of speech which are: ad%ectives, adverbs
con%unctions, inter%ections, nouns, prepositions, pronouns and verbs.
Even though they are classified as a different part of speech to nouns, pronouns are nouns. They always play the role of a noun in a sentence.
2ames is the first choice for the post. 5e has applied for it twice already.$He is a pronoun. 0n this example, it replaces the proper
noun James.&
$It is a pronoun. 5ere, it replaces the common noun post.&
/ome 6 "ho 6 This$The term pronoun covers lots of words, and all three words above are classified as pronouns. There is whole section
dedicated to pronouns.&
Verbal Nouns
*erbal nouns $also called gerunds& are formed from verbs. They end -ing. They are a type of common noun.
0 love swimming.$swimming # the name of an activity7 it is formed from the verb to swim.&
.ateral thinking is re3uired to solve this problem.$thinking # the name of an activity7 it is formed from the verb to think.&
*erbal nouns are different to other nouns, because they can take an ob%ect or be modified with an adverb.
0 love swimming this lake.
Thinking laterally is re3uired to solve this problem.
Compound Nouns
1ead more at http:66www.grammar'monster.com6lessons6nouns8different8types.htm9r:h;:<)hhrhkig=.>>
The %ob that a noun does is to identify a person, place, thing, or idea that a sentence is telling you
about. Examples:
5e left his book in his locker.
y mom put cookies in my lunch.
The President made a speech on TV.
The function of a noun is as the sub%ect of a sentence or clause, and the ob%ect of a verb or a
preposition. Examples:
(oun sub%ect of sentence: Aunt Jane made cookies for 2ack and 2ill.
(oun sub%ect of clause: The cookies that Aunt Jane made are for 2ack and 2ill.
(oun ob%ect of verb: Aunt 2ane made cookies for 2ack and 2ill.
(oun ob%ect of preposition: Aunt 2ane made cookies for Jack and Jill.
The Different Types of Pronouns
The term pronoun covers many words, some of which do not fall easily under the description given
in the section What are Pronouns? There are many different kinds of pronouns. In general, these do
not cause difficulties for native English speakers. The list below is mainly for reference purposes.
Demonstrative Pronouns
These pronouns are used to demonstrate or indicate!. This, that, these and those are all
demonstrative pronouns.
This is the one I left in the car.In this e"ample, the speaker could be indicating to a mobile
phone, in which case, the pronoun this replaces the words mobile phone.!
$hall I take those?
%ore on demonstrative pronouns...
Indefinite Pronouns
&nlike demonstrative pronouns, which point out specific items, indefinite pronouns are used for
non'specific things. This is the largest group of
pronouns. All, some, any, several, anyone, nobody, each, both, few, either, none, one and no
one are the most common.
Somebody must have seen the driver leave.somebody ( not a specific person!
We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. )scar Wilde!
I have nothing to declare e"cept my genius. )scar Wilde!
%ore on indefinite pronouns...
Interrogative Pronouns
These pronouns are used in *uestions. +lthough they are classified as pronouns, it is not easy to see
how they replace nouns. Who, which, what, where and how are all interrogative pronouns.
Who told you to do that?
Which dog won the race?
%ore on interrogative pronouns...
Personal Pronouns
The personal pronouns are I, you, he, she, it, we, they, and who. %ore often than not but not
e"clusively!, they replace nouns representing people. When most people think of pronouns, it is the
personal pronouns that usually spring to mind.
We can,t all be heroes because somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.
I bought some batteries, but they weren,t included.
%ore on personal pronouns...
Possessive Pronouns
Possessive pronouns are used to show possession. +s they are used as ad-ectives, they are also
known as possessive ad-ectives. My, your, his, her, its, our and their are all possessive pronouns.
.ave you seen her book?In this e"ample, the pronoun her replaces a word like Sarah's.!
%ore on possessive pronouns...
Relative Pronouns
/elative pronouns are used to add more information to a
sentence. Which, that, who including whom and whose! and where are all relative pronouns.
0r +dam $issons, who lectured at 1ambridge for more than 23 years, should have known the
difference.In this e"ample, the relative pronoun who introduces the clause who studied at
Cambridge for 12 years and refers back to Dr Adams Sissons.!
The man who first saw the comet reported it as a &4).In this e"ample, the relative
pronoun who introduces the clause who first saw the comet and refers back to the man.!
%ore on relative pronouns...
Absolute Possessive Pronouns
These pronouns also show possession. &nlike possessive pronouns see above!, which are
ad-ectives to nouns, these pronouns sit by themselves. Mine, yours, his, hers, ours and theirs are
all absolute possessive pronouns.
The tickets are as good as ours.
$hall we take yours or theirs?
%ore on absolute possessives...
Reciprocal Pronouns
/eciprocal pronouns are used for actions or feelings that are reciprocated. The two most common
reciprocal pronouns are each other and one another.
They like one another.
They talk to each other like they,re babies.
%ore on reciprocal pronouns...
Refleive Pronouns
+ refle"ive pronoun ends !!!self or !!!selves and refers to another noun or pronoun in the sentence
usually the sub-ect of the sentence!. The refle"ive pronouns
are# myself, yourself, herself, himself, itself, ourselves, yourselves and themselves.
The dog bit itself.In this e"ample, the intensive pronoun itself refers back to the noun the dog.!
+re you talking to yourself?
%ore on refle"ive pronouns...
Intensive "or #mphatic$ Pronouns
+n intensive pronoun sometimes called an emphatic pronoun! refers back to another noun or
pronoun in the sentence to emphasise it e.g., to emphasise that it is the thing carrying out the
5ohn bakes all the bread himself.In this e"ample, the intensive pronoun himself refers back to the
noun John.!
The cat opened the door itself.
1ead more at http:66www.grammar'monster.com6lessons6pronouns8different8types.htm9?o:@A3E1B<*T;l.p.>>
,eterminers signal $CdetermineD& that a noun will follow. -nlike ad%ectives, which also
signal that a noun will follow, determiners cannot add the inflectional morphemes -er and -
est. 0n addition, because they are function words, determiners do not have other forms or
synonyms. Their EmeaningE is their function: to signal that a noun will follow.
Types of determiners
1 articles $the hat, a hat, an opera&
! possessive nouns " pronouns $Marys hat, her hat& $more about possessive nouns&
# numbers $five hats, eight hats, twenty hats)
$ indefinite pronouns $each hat ,some hats, both hats& $more about indefinite pronouns&
% demonstrative pronouns $that hat, those hats& $more about demonstrative pronouns&

(ative speakers of English learn when to use articles with nouns as they learn to speak.
5owever, learning when to use articles is often difficult for non'native speakers.

The difference between article use with town and city illustrates the difficulty:

Correct: 0 walked to the town. $article the before town&
Correct: 0 walked to town. $no article before town&

Correct: 0 walked to the city. $article the before city&
0ncorrect: 0 walked to city. $no article before city&

What Is a Determiner?
In the midst of all the nouns, pronouns, adjectives and articles a student is
expected to learn, the determiner is often left by the wayside, untaught or
taught incorrectly. The determiner is an important noun modifier which
contextualizes a noun, often in terms of quantity and possession. Determiners
in nglish precede a noun phrase and includedemonstratives, possessives,
and quantifiers.
Determiners in English
There are many different determiners in the nglish language.
!rticles are among the most common of the determiners. !, an, and the all
express the definiteness and specificity of a noun. "or example, #the$ is a
definite article, meaning the person using the word is referring to a specific
one. %n the other hand, #a$ or #an$ are indefinite.
Demonstratives, such as this, that, these and those, require a frame of
reference in which an individual can point out the entities referred to by a
spea&er or a writer.
'uantifiers, such as all, few, and many, point out how much or how little of
*+,I-( +.!))!. ./,- 0 /-!+
1(!T I- ! DT.)I*.2
something is being indicated.
1hen referring to an entity that belongs to another, you can use possessives.
)y, your, their, and its are a few examples.
There are many other types of determiners. "or instance, cardinal numbers, the
numbers that are written out in nglish, are also included in the class of
determiners. Determiners are generally split into two groups3definite
determiners and indefinite determiners.
Function of a Determiners
! determiner can ta&e on a number of different meanings and roles in a
sentence. The determiner is used in every case to clarify the noun.
They may be used to demonstrate or define something or someone.
'uantifiers state how many of a thing, in number or expression. !
determiner is used to show that the noun indicated is a specific one
4that one5, not an unspecific one 4any5.
They may also state the differences between nouns.
1hile determiners may have a number of other functions, most of them are
related to these two &ey areas. The list of determiners only numbers about 67
words, and all of these words are commonly used by most individuals.
Determiners are not difficult to get the grasp of when contrasted with
adjectives, and do not ta&e too long for native nglish spea&ers to grasp. !fter
all, how many times have you had trouble deciding whether to say #the$ or
Determining Determiners
(ow should you choose which determiner to use2 "or those who were raised
spea&ing the nglish language, determining the determiner to use is second8
nature, since determiners are so often used in front of nouns.
,i&e the basic parts of speech, determiners are so ingrained into the nglish
language that using them is simple. The same goes for most Indo8uropean
languages 4for instance, .omance languages such as -panish and
the +ermanic languages such as +erman5.
(owever, the languages of other countries may not use determiners, or may
have sets of rules very different than the nglish language does. "or these
individuals, learning how and where to use determiners can be rather difficult.
Determiners and Adjectives
/ntil recently, nglish teaching in schools did not ta&e determiners into
account. )any determiners were simply lumped into the category of
#adjectives,$ which wor&s for some but certainly not for all.
!djectives have primarily three functions9 they modify noun phrases, or
complement the object or subject of a sentence.
The function of a determiner is to express proximity, relationship, quantity, and
Determiners are not gradable as are adjectives. "or example, a person may be
angry, angrier, or the angriest. ! person can not be #her8est$ or #the8est.$
Determiners are usually necessary 4or obligatory5 in a sentence, whereas
adjectives are not.
!djectives, unli&e determiners, cannot have corresponding pronouns.
!djectives and determiners are distinct from one another and cannot simply be
lumped into the same category.
A regular verb is a verb which follows the typical pattern. 0n the past simple it ends with 'ed.
An irrgeular verbs is a verb whose conjugation doesn't follow the typical pattern. It follows a different pattern and
doesn't end in -ed in the past simple form
The base form of the verb is the verb as it is seen in the dictionary.
The infinitve form of a verb generally follows the form to + verb , but there are some exceptions. An infinitive is not a
verb and so never has an -s, -es, -ed or -ing added to the end of it. Infinitives can be used as nouns, adjectives,
or adverbs.
A present participle is a verb that shows an ongoing action or state in the present and that can also be an adjective.
A past particple is a verb form which shows a past or completed action or time
A dynamic verb is a verb which shows that an action is continuing or progression action. This is opposite of a stative
verb which shows that something is a non action verb and cannot be used in an -ing form.
Transitive verbs are action verbs and they require direct objects, the action of the verb is trasnferred to the object
directly so for example, 'The judge sentences the man to five years in prison.' Here, the subject (the judge) applies an
action (sentences) to a direct object (the man).
An intransitive verb is also an action verb but it unlike transitive verbs it doesn't have a direct object. Instead of the
action being transferred to the person or object, instead an adverb or adverb phrase modifies it. For example, 'The
man decided against a plea bargain. As you can see, the subject (the man) did something (decided) a particular way
A linking verb is a verb which connects a subject to a verb that connects the subject of a sentence to the complement.
A complement is a word which follows a linking verb and completes the subject of the sentence by describing or
renaming it. In English the main linking verb is the verb to be
In English we have many phrasal verbs, (multi word verbs) . Some of these are easily understood but some cannot be
translated or understood without simply memorising the meaning.
be up for
1 Type 4: Transitive (object) with more than one particle.
2 to want to try something or be interested in something

pack up
1 Type 3: Transitive (object) separable needs an object and the object can go between the verb and
the particle or after the particle.
2 to put things in

set off
1 Type 1: Intransitive (no object) does not take a direct object.
2 to start a journey

get on for
1 Type 4: Transitive (object) with more than one particle.
2 approaching a particular time

look out for
1 Type 4: Transitive (object) with more than one particle.
2 to look carefully to find something

get off
1 Type 2: Transitive (object) inseparable needs an object but the object cannot go between the verb
and the particle.
2 to leave

come across
1 Type 2: Transitive (object) inseparable needs an object but the object cannot go between the verb
and the particle.
2 to find

pull over
1 Type 1: Intransitive (no object) does not take a direct object.
2 to stop at the side of a road

look for
1 Type 2: Transitive (object) inseparable needs an object but the object cannot go between the verb
and the particle.
2 to search
There are nine pure modals that have the characteristics we just discussed.
These are: can, could, may, might, must, shall, should, will, would.
In addition to these nine pure modals, there are other verbs that are used to express modality.
These are called semi-modals. Semi modals are ought to, need (to), dare, have got (to), have to, had
better, be able to, be going to, used to.
Semi-modals have modal meaning but may not have all of the characteristics of form that pure modals
% In the e"ample sentences, what kind of main verb follows a modal verb?
Modal verbs are followed by the base form or the infinitive
In ii! Can you please pass that corkscrew oer here! and iii! "ay I smoke in here! how do
we form a *uestion using a modal verb?
When used in a question, modal verbs are inverted with the subject.
In viii! #ell$ they must hae grown a lot% what can you say about the past form of modal
Modal verbs dont have a past form so we need to use modal + have + past particple to use a modal with a
past tense
6ook at can in i! he can still swim ii! Can you please pass that corkscrew oer
here! v! She can come tomorrow. What can you say about the meaning of modal verbs?
Each modal verb can have different meanings. In these examples can means ability, requesting and then
giving permission (in that order)
) .ow do we form a negative using a modal verb?
To form a negative modal we add n't ro the modal verb