What Are Nouns? (Grammar Lesson)
The Quick AnswerWhat are nouns?
A noun is a "naming" word.
A noun is a word for a person, place, or thing. Everything we can see or talk about is represented by a word that names it. That "naming" word is called a noun.
NounsA noun is a word for a person, place, or thing. (You might like to think of nouns as "naming" words.) Everything we can see or talk about is represented by a word that names it. That "naming" word is called a noun.
Often a noun will be the name for something we can touch (e.g., lion, cake, computer), but sometimes a noun will be the name for something we cannot touch (e.g., bravery, mile, joy).
Everything is represented by a word that lets us talk about it. This includes people (e.g., man, scientist), animals (e.g., dog, lizard), places (e.g., town, street), objects (e.g., vase, pencil), substances (e.g., copper, glass), qualities (e.g., heroism, sorrow), actions (e.g., swimming, dancing), and measures (e.g., inch, ounce).
Examples of NounsHere are some more examples of nouns:
- soldier, Alan, cousin, Frenchman (These are nouns representing people.)
- rat, zebra, lion, aardvark (These are nouns representing animals.)
- house, London, factory, shelter (These are nouns representing places.)
- table, frame, printer, chisel (These are nouns representing objects.)
- lead, nitrogen, water, ice (These are nouns representing substances.)
- kindness, beauty, bravery, wealth, faith (These are nouns representing qualities.)
- rowing, cooking, barking, reading, listening (These are nouns representing actions.)
- month, inch, day, pound, ounce (These are nouns representing measures.)
Common Nouns and Proper NounsA noun can be categorized as either a common noun or a proper noun.
A common noun is the word used for a class of person, place, or thing (e.g., person, city, dog).
A proper noun is the given name of a person, place or thing, i.e., its own name (e.g., Michael, New York, Rover). (Note: A proper noun always starts with a capital letter.)
Here are some more examples of common nouns and proper nouns:
|Common Noun||Proper Noun|
|bridge||The Golden Gate Bridge|
Read more about using capital letters for proper nouns but not common nouns.
The Different Types of NounsA noun can usually be further categorized depending on its meaning (e.g., Is it something tangible?) or its structure (e.g., Is it made up of more than one word?).
Below is a list of the different types of nouns with examples:
Abstract NounsAbstract nouns are things you cannot see or touch. For example:
Collective NounsCollective nouns are words that denote groups. For example:
- The team is scheduled to arrive at 4 o'clock.
- The team are wearing different novelty hats.
Compound NounsCompound nouns are nouns made up of more than one word. For example:
- water bottle
Read more about hyphens in compound nouns.
Read about forming the plurals of compound nouns.
Concrete NounsConcrete nouns are things you can see or touch. For example:
Non-countable NounsNon-countable nouns (or mass nouns) are things you cannot count. For example:
Gender-specific NounsGender-specific nouns are nouns that are definitely male or female. For example:
Verbal NounsVerbal nouns are nouns derived from verbs. (Verbal nouns have no verb-like properties.) For example (verbal nouns shown in bold):
- a good building
- a fine drawing
- an effective attack
GerundsGerunds are nouns that end -ing and that represent actions. (Gerunds have verb-like properties.) For example (gerunds shown in bold):
- happily building a tower
- quickly drawing the scene
- suddenly attacking the enemy
How To Spot a Common Noun and a Proper NounA common noun answers the question "What is it?"
A proper noun answers the question "What's its name?"
Q: What is it? A: It is a bridge.
(The word bridge is a common noun.)
Q: What's its name? A: It is London Bridge.
(The name London Bridge is a proper noun.)