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 used to name something or someone. Nouns in most languages, including English, are the largest class of words.

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

Based on different notions, we can categorize nouns into different groups. Each has different functions and specific characteristics:

  1. Based on Unique or Common Entities
  2. Based on Physical or Abstract Entities
  3. Based on Countability
  4. Based on Word-Formation Processes
  5. Based on Gender
  6. Based on Grammatical Functions

Based on Unique or Common Entities

Based on whether a noun is referring to a specific noun or not they are 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 Physical or Abstract Entities

Based on whether we can touch or see nouns or not they are categorized into two groups.

'Abstract nouns' are a type of nouns that you cannot see or touch. They may include a concept, idea, experience, state of being, trait, quality, feeling, or other entities that cannot be experienced with the five senses. For example, 'love,' 'hate,' 'honesty' and 'bravery' are all abstract nouns.
'Concrete nouns' are a type of noun that can be identified through one of the five senses. For example, 'telephone,' 'noise,' and 'car' are concrete nouns. Have a look:

The bed was covered with flowers.

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

Based on Countability

Collective Nouns

A 'collective Noun' is a word that represents a collection of things taken as a whole, like the words '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

Based on whether we can count a noun or not they are categorized into two groups.

'Count nouns' (also called countable nouns) are nouns that have plural forms and can be pluralized, or counted with a number, for example, 'one chair,' 'three chairs.'
'Non-count nouns' (also called uncountable or mass nouns) are nouns that cannot be pluralized or counted with a number, for example, '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.

Singular or Plural Nouns

Based on whether there is only one of a particular noun or more, they are categorized into two groups.

Using Nouns in a Sentence

The term 'singular' refers to a noun that there is one of it. The term 'plural' refers to nouns that there are more than one of them. 'Singular nouns' have the article (a, an) before them and 'plural nouns' have the letters (s, es) at the end.
For example, a bag, an apple, etc, are considered singular nouns, and buses, books, families, etc, are considered plural nouns. Have a look:

Please shut the doors before you leave.

It is worth a try.

Plural-only Nouns

There are some nouns that are only used in plural form. It means that we cannot count them and use numbers with them. For example:

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 nouns that are made up of more than one word. There are three kinds 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.


The 'derivation' is a process of making new words with a different word class by using affixes, prefixes, and suffixes. In English, there are some nouns that are made by adding prefixes, suffixes, or affixes to other words.
For example, by adding 'er,' 'or,' 'ar' 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.

The man is a professional baker.

Based on Gender

A 'gender-specific noun' refers only to males or only to females. In many languages, the gender of nouns is divided into three categories:

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

In English, the gender of most nouns is neuter. However, if a noun refers to something obviously male or female, then its gender will be masculine or feminine (as determined by the meaning).
For example Rooster (Gender-specific masculine), hen (Gender-specific feminine), and chicken (neutral). Have a look:

Her husband works at hospital.

'Husband' is a masculine noun.

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

Based on Grammatical Functions

Verbal Nouns

'Verbal Nouns' (also called gerunds) are words that are derived from verbs but act as nouns. All gerunds in English have the suffix '-ing.'
For example, 'playing,' 'singing' and 'drawing.' Take a look at the examples below:

Swimming was 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 followed immediately by another noun. The first noun acts as a modifier for the second one and modifies it. The important point is that appositive nouns can be easily omitted from the sentence with making no harm to 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

Based on noun functions they are categorized into three main groups:

Nouns as Subjects

Sometimes 'nouns' can be used as the 'subject' of a sentence, in this case, the sentence is about the noun or the noun does the action of the verb.
As you might know, subjects are used at the beginning of an affirmative sentence. For example:

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 follows transitive verbs and all the verb acts is upon the direct object.
An indirect object is a noun or noun phrase to whom or to what, an action is completed. Remember, a direct object is always required before an indirect object. Take a look at the examples showcased below:

Can you please pass me the keys?

Here in this example the noun 'key' is considered indirect object and the term 'me' is a direct object.

I will tell him that I love him.

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 a noun phrase that is used as the direct or indirect object of a passive sentence. We mean the verb has to be in the passive form. 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 noun or a noun phrase that is a 'subject complement' is used in a sentence to rename or define the subject. Remember, subject complements are not always nouns and sometimes they can be adjectives. A noun or a noun phrase that is considered an 'object complement' is used to give more information about the object of a sentence. For example:

That girl standing over there is Hanna.

I found him reading books.

Flexibility of Words!

Remember, some words can have different kinds of word classes. We mean a very word can be a noun and a verb as well.


Noun Phrase

In English, a noun rarely comes alone. It's always accompanied by another word or articles (a/an or the). A noun with any sort of modifier is called a 'noun phrase.' In other words, a noun phrase is a word or a group of words in a sentence that behaves in the same way as a noun and can function as a subject, an object, a complement, or as the object of a preposition. 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 acting together as a noun. The difference between a noun phrase and a noun clause is that, unlike noun phrases, noun clauses contain both a subject and a verb. These clauses are always dependent clauses. That is, they do not form a complete sentence. Have a look:

He can invite whomever he wants.

Whether he invites Jack or not is his business.

Positions of Nouns

Most of the times nouns follow a determiner or an adjective. We cannot say that it is always like this, but usually, there is a determiner or an adjective before it. Here are some examples for better understanding:

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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Compound Nouns

Compound nouns are formed when two or more words are joined together to create a new word that has an entirely new meaning.

Proper and Common Nouns

Did you know there are two kinds of noun: common nouns and proper nouns. Common nouns refer to general nouns and proper nouns refer to specific nouns.

Singular and Plural Nouns

Anything that is just one in quantity is singular. But what if there is more than one? Nouns that are two or more are called plurals! Simple, yes? Let's see!

Countable and Uncountable Nouns

It's important to know if a noun is countable or uncountable. This is going to help us to use the correct article. Let's learn more.

Collective Nouns

If we want to represent certain individual nouns as one entity we can make use of collective nouns. In this lesson, you'll learn about their structure and uses.

Possessive Nouns

Possessive structures have many functions like showing ownership or belonging. With the help of apostrophe 's', we can make a possessive noun. Let's start!

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