The Different Types of Nouns

The Quick Answer
What 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.


A 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 Nouns

Here 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 Nouns

A 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 NounProper Noun
townMilton Keynes
bridgeThe Golden Gate Bridge
towerEifel Tower
streetHoneysuckle Crescent

Read more about using capital letters for proper nouns but not common nouns.

The Different Types of Nouns

A 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 Nouns

Abstract nouns are things you cannot see or touch. For example:
  • bravery
  • joy
  • determination

Collective Nouns

Collective nouns are words that denote groups. For example:
  • team
  • choir
  • pack
Collective nouns can be treated as singular or plural. It depends on the sense of your sentence. For example:
  • The team is scheduled to arrive at 4 o'clock.
  • The team are wearing different novelty hats.
Read more about treating collective nouns as singular and plural.

Compound Nouns

Compound nouns are nouns made up of more than one word. For example:
  • court-martial
  • pickpocket
  • water bottle
Some compound nouns are hyphenated, some are not, and some combine their words to form a single word.

Read more about hyphens in compound nouns.
Read about forming the plurals of compound nouns.

Concrete Nouns

Concrete nouns are things you can see or touch. For example:
  • tree
  • hammer
  • cloud

Non-countable Nouns

Non-countable nouns (or mass nouns) are things you cannot count. For example:
  • food
  • music
  • water

Gender-specific Nouns

Gender-specific nouns are nouns that are definitely male or female. For example:
  • king
  • vixen
  • actress

Verbal Nouns

Verbal 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
In the examples above, the verbal nouns are shown with adjectives to differentiate them from gerunds (which are often confused with verbal nouns). Gerunds are modified with adverbs not adjectives.


Gerunds 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
In the examples above, the gerunds are shown with adverbs and direct objects to differentiate them from verbal nouns (which are often confused with gerunds).
Interactive Test

See Also

The different types of nouns Abstract nouns Collective nouns Compound nouns Concrete nouns Non-countable nouns (mass nouns) Gender-specific nouns Gerunds Verbal nouns Noun clauses Noun phrases What are adjectives? What are adverbs? What are conjunctions? What are interjections? What are prepositions? What are verbs? What are pronouns? The different types of pronouns