Nouns are among the first lessons when studying a new language. In other words, we have to be able to name things first, then make sentences with them.

What Are "Nouns" In the English Grammar?

What Are Nouns?

Nouns are the words used to name people, things, places, ideas, or concepts. They are the largest class of words in most languages, including English.

A noun is a word that refers to:

  • A Person: Adam, doctor, sister, student
  • A Place: home, New York, office, village
  • An Object: chair, stair, hammer
  • An Animal: snake, mouse, fish, bear
  • An Idea: confusion, kindness, joy
  • A Quality: softness, darkness, roughness
  • An Action: cooking, playing, swimming

Types of Nouns

Nouns can be categorized into different groups based on various criteria. Each group has unique functions and specific characteristics.

  1. Based on Uniqueness or Commonality
  2. Based on Physicality or Abstractness
  3. Based on Countability
  4. Based on Word-Formation Processes
  5. Based on Gender
  6. Based on Grammatical Functions

Based on Uniqueness or Commonality

Based on whether they refer to a specific entity or not, nouns can be categorized into two groups:

Common nouns refer to a non-specific noun, while proper nouns refer to specific nouns. Common nouns are not capitalized unless they come at the beginning of a sentence. Proper nouns should always be capitalized. Take a look at the following examples:

They gave Alan his own show.

'Adam' is a proper noun therefore is capitalized even at the middle of the sentence.

The room was full of guests.

The noun 'room' is a common noun and is not capitalized.

Based on Physicality or Abstractness

Nouns can be categorized into two groups based on whether they are tangible or visible or not:

Abstract nouns refer to intangible entities such as concepts, ideas, or emotions. They cannot be experienced through the five senses and include words like 'love,' 'honesty,' and 'bravery.' Concrete nouns, on the other hand, refer to tangible entities that can be identified through the senses, such as 'telephone,' 'noise,' and 'car. Pay attention to the examples:

The bed was covered with flowers.

Everyone is not lucky enough to find love in real life.

Based on Countability

Singular or Plural Nouns

Nouns can be categorized into two groups based on their quantity or number:

Singular nouns refer to a single entity, while plural nouns refer to multiple entities. Singular nouns are preceded by the articles 'a' or 'an,' while plural nouns are indicated by the addition of the letters 's' or 'es' at the end of the word. For example, 'bag' and 'apple' are singular nouns, while 'buses,' 'books,' and 'families' are plural nouns. Take a look at the examples:

It is worth a try.

The students in the class were all wearing different colored shirts.

Collective Nouns

A 'collective Noun' refers to a group of individuals or things regarded as a single entity, such as 'team' or 'group. For example:

The audience was taking notes of everything.

'Audience' are a collection of people that listen and watch a performance.

My family lives in Tokyo.

Countable and Uncountable Nouns

Nouns can be categorized into two groups based on whether they can be counted or not:

Countable nouns have plural forms and can be quantified with a number, such as 'one chair' or 'three chairs.' Uncountable nouns, on the other hand, cannot be pluralized or quantified with a number, such as 'water,' 'sugar,' and 'wood.' Here are some examples for clarity:

The cat was drinking its milk from the bowl.

'Milk' is an uncountable noun.

There were millions of worms under the ground.

'Worms' are countable nouns.

Using Nouns in a Sentence

Plural-only Nouns

Some nouns are only used in the plural form and cannot be counted or quantified with numbers.

Wear your glasses there is a hot sun outside.

'Eyeglasses' or 'glasses' are always used in plural form.

Your son looks cute in those shorts.

Based on Word-Formation Processes

Compound Nouns

'Compound Nouns' are made up of two or more words. There are three types of compound nouns in English:

  • The closed form (which are written as one word): basketball, wallpaper, grandmother
  • The open form (which are spelled as two separate words): ice cream, field hockey, distance learning
  • The hyphenated form (two or more words are joined by a hyphen): long-term, mother-in-law, check-in

They have put a wooden drawer in their bedrooms.

John must be her son-in-low.


Derivation is the process of creating new words with a different word class by adding affixes, prefixes, or suffixes. In English, some nouns are formed by adding these elements to other words.
For example, by adding '-er/-or/-ar', '-ion/-tion', '-ment', '-ness', etc. to some verbs we can have different nouns. Pay attention to the following examples:

He is a famous actor.

Here by adding 'or' to the verb act we made the noun actor.

Children often have a very active imagination, which can lead to playfulness.

Based on Gender

A 'gender-specific noun' refers specifically to either males or females. In some languages, nouns are classified into three genders:

  1. Masculine nouns
  2. Feminine nouns
  3. Neutral nouns

Most nouns in English are considered gender-neutral. However, if a noun refers to something that is clearly male or female, its gender will be determined by its meaning and classified as masculine or feminine.
For example Rooster (Gender-specific masculine), hen (Gender-specific feminine), and chicken (neutral). Have a look:

Her husband works at a hospital.

'Husband' is a masculine noun.

The queen has a diamond ring that is missing at the moment.

Based on Grammatical Functions

Verbal Nouns

'Verbal Nouns' or gerunds, are words derived from verbs that function as nouns. In English, all gerunds end in the suffix '-ing.' Examples include 'playing,' 'singing,' and 'drawing'. Take a look at the examples below:

Swimming is the hardest thing I have ever learned.

I was busy reading your essays.

Appositive Nouns

'Appositive noun' (also called attributive noun adjunct, qualifying noun, noun modifier), is a noun that immediately follows and modifies another noun. The first noun serves as a modifier for the second noun, but can be omitted without changing the meaning of the sentence.

His present, the golden watch, has been sent to Emily two days ago.

Tonight's dinner, chicken soup, was really disgusting.

The Function of Nouns

Nouns are categorized into three main groups based on their functions:

Nouns as Subjects

Nouns can serve as the subject of a sentence, indicating that the sentence is either about the noun or that the noun is performing the action of the verb. In affirmative sentences, the subject typically appears at the beginning of the sentence.

Claudia is a Russian dentist that lives in Italy.

The organization is considered one of the best ones in this area.

Nouns as Objects

As 'objects,' nouns can be direct object, indirect object, retained objects, and the objects of the prepositions. Let us explain them one by one to avoid any confusion.

Direct Object & Indirect Object

The 'direct object' of a verb is a noun or a noun phrase that receives the action of a transitive verb.
An indirect object is a noun or pronoun in a sentence that identifies to or for whom or what the action of the verb is performed. The indirect object usually comes between the verb and the direct object (if there is one).Take a look at the examples below:

Can you please pass me the keys?

Here, 'the keys' is the direct object, and 'me' is the indirect object for whom the action is performed.

I made my sister a cup of tea.

Object of Preposition

The 'object of a preposition' is a noun or a noun phrase that is used after a preposition as an object. Have a look:

Take a look! Maybe it is on the counter.

Put the books in the small closet.

Retained Object

A retained object is a noun or noun phrase used as the direct or indirect object in a passive sentence, where the verb is in the passive voice. Look at these examples:

She was given the key to their beach house.

They were invited to the party.

Nouns as Subject or Object Complements

A subject complement is a noun or noun phrase used in a sentence to rename or define the subject. It's important to note that subject complements can also be adjectives.
An object complement, on the other hand, provides more information about the object of a sentence. For example:

That girl standing over there is Hanna.

I found him reading books.

Here, 'him' is the object and 'reading' is the object complement.

Flexibility of Words!

Remember, some words can function as multiple parts of speech, such as being both a noun and a verb. For example, 'run', 'cook', 'travel', etc.


Noun Phrase

In English, a noun is often accompanied by a modifier or article ('a/an' or 'the'), forming what is called a noun phrase. A noun phrase is a word or group of words that functions as a noun and can serve as a subject, object, complement, or object of a preposition in a sentence.Take a look at the following example:

They were in the campus of the university.

She called the driver of the car.

Noun Clause

A 'noun clause' is a group of words that functions as a noun. Unlike a noun phrase, a noun clause contains both a subject and a verb. Noun clauses are always dependent clauses and do not form a complete sentence on their own. Have a look:

He can invite whomever he wants.

Whether he invites Jack or not is his business.

Positions of Nouns

Most often, nouns follow a determiner or an adjective. While it is not always the case, usually there is a determiner or an adjective before the noun. Here are some examples :

She has a nice car.

I love the beautiful girl.


Nouns are categorized into different groups based on different criteria. Here are the most important categories of nouns.

  • countable and uncountable nouns
  • abstract and concrete nouns
  • singular and plural nouns
  • common and proper nouns

Nouns can be used as:

  • subjects
  • objects
  • subject or object complements


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Proper and Common Nouns

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Singular and Plural Nouns

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Countable and Uncountable Nouns

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Collective Nouns

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Possessive Nouns

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