What is a Noun? Additional information

See also on this blog:  What is a noun – lesson 15




What is a Noun?

Nouns are the largest group of words in the English language.   Also, most nouns have a plural form where there is more than one item.


Concrete nouns:

This is something that you can see or touch and are both countable and uncountable.  It has a position in time and space.

Concrete nouns can refer to people, things, animals and places which can all be made countable.  For example:

People: woman / doctor / baby / nurse.   Things: chair / key / wheel / bike.  Animals: horse / fish / rabbit / snake.  Places: city / river / island / mountain


Countable and Uncountable Nouns:

Countable nouns have a singular and a plural form.  For example: book: books / car: cars / dog: dogs / fish: fishes.  Uncountable nouns have only one form: furniture, NOT: furnitures.   For countable nouns the singular form  can use the determiner: a or an.  You can add a number before the noun: two ears / two busses / three stars / five bicycles.  Or, you can add a quantifier before the noun: many people / two people / a lot of people. More examples:

they have two cats / I own a car  /  I would like five books please  /  how many books do you have?

Uncountable nouns are for the things that we cannot count with numbers.  They may be the names for abstract ideas or qualities or for physical objects as well gasses, liquids etc.  Uncountable nouns are used with a singular verb.  They usually do not have a plural form.   For example;

tea / sugar / water / air / knowledge / beauty / anger / fear / love / money / research / safety / evidence

Substances: glass / skin / flesh / copper / zinc / iron.  Liquids: water / wine / rain / milk.  Gasses: air / gas / smoke / steam

We cannot use a or an with these nouns.  To express a quantity of an uncountable noun we can use word or expressions like:  some /  a lot of / much / a bit of / a great deal of.  Or else use an exact measurement like a cup of  / a bag of / 1 kg of / 1 L of / a handful of / a pinch of / an hour of / a day of.   If you want to ask about the quantity of an uncountable noun, you ask: how much?  More examples:

he gave me a great deal of advice before my interview

can you give me some information about uncountable nouns?

he did not have much sugar left

how much rice do you want?


Singular and Plural Nouns

Regular nouns:

Most singular nouns form the plural by adding: s


singular: boat, plural: boats  /  singular: house, plural: houses

singular: cat, plural: cats  /  singular: river, plural: rivers

A singular noun ending in: x,  s,  z,  ch,  sh, makes the plural by adding: es.  Examples:

singular: bus, plural: buses  /  singular: wish, plural: wishes  /  singular: box, plural: boxes

A singular noun ending in a consonant and then y makes the plural by dropping the y and adding ies.  Examples:

singular: spy, plural: spies  /  singular: baby, plural: babies  /  singular: city, plural: cities


Irregular nouns:

There are some irregular noun plurals.  Here are some common ones:

singular / plural:

woman / women  – tooth / teeth  –  foot / feet  –  person / people  –  leaf / leaves  –  man / men  –  child / children  –  mouse / mice  –  goose / geese  –  half / halves  –  knife / knives  –  wife / wives  –  life / lives  –  loaf / loaves  –  crisis / crises


Possessive form:

The possessive form is mainly used for people, countries or animals.  Also, it’s used in time expressions: a week’s holiday / tomorrow’s weather / in two years’ time / ten minutes’ break.

s is used with singular nouns and plural nouns not ending in s.   Examples:

a man‘s job / men‘s work / a woman‘s intuition / a child‘s voice / the children‘s room / the people‘s choice / the bull‘s horns




Abstract nouns: 

An abstract noun refers to something which has no physical form, something which we cannot see or touch.   It stands for general feelings, ideas or concepts.  For example:

Feelings: love.  We cannot touch love but we feel it.  Ideas: education / bravery / knowledge.   Education is the general name for how our minds develop when we learn things.   Bravery and knowledge are also very general.

There are different types of abstract noun.   For example:

Nouns which are related to adjectives.  They describe qualities and all are uncountable: ability / importance / truth / length / strength / freedom / beauty / wealth / goodness / honesty.  Some can also be countable.  For example: able / abilities.

Nouns which describe states  (e.g. states of mind):  need / knowledge / employment / peace / trust / hope / belief / sleep / emotion / judgement / permission.  Most of these are related to verbs and can be used as uncountable nouns.  But some can be used as countable nouns.  For example: believe: belief, beliefs / know: knowledge / judge: judgements.

Many abstract nouns can be recognised by their endings.  For example:

quality / unity / action / invitation / trial/ refusal / judgement / treatment / feeling / meaning / difference / appearance / width / strength / difficulty / honesty / happiness / weakness / manhood / childhood


Proper nouns: 

A proper noun normally begins with a capital letter, but not at the beginning of a sentence.  It’s a singular word name and refers to one person, place or organisation.  For example: Person: John / Michael / Karen.  Place: Rome / Ireland / Australia.  Organisation: UNESCO.

A proper noun normally has no determiner in front of it.  For example: Chicago, NOT: the Chicago / John, NOT: the John.   Also it normally has no plural.


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Also on this blog: What is a noun – lesson 15

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