What is a noun?
I once thought that it was an easy question to answer and certainly, it is one that many people would immediately say is a naming word. It describes an object such as the word table or coat. But what about the word hope or revenge? Where is the object then?
We could say that they describe an object or an intangible or abstract concept which is where hope and revenge fit in.
There are several subclasses of nouns:
It can be a common noun: cat
It can be a proper noun: Sarah, America
Common nouns can be ‘count’ nouns: six apples
Common nouns can be ‘noncount’ nouns: music (never musics)
And count and noncount nouns can be either concrete (cat, table, music, grass) or abstract (dream, thought, luck, health)
Singular and plural
Many nouns have distinctive singular and plural forms. The plural of regular nouns is formed by adding an -s to the singular: cats, tables, apples
There are, however, many nouns that are irregular and which do not form a plural in this way – child→ children, woman →women, baby→babies.
In English, it is possible to show ownership or possession. This can be done by adding an apostrophe and -s or sometimes by only adding an apostrophe ( see post:
the girl’s blouse (ie: the blouse belongs to the girl)
my friend’s house
This last example is up for debate; this is the correct form but there is some difference of opinion and stylistic variations (see: Help…….Where s’hould that apos’t’rophe be?)
Nouns are frequently preceded by a determiner that forms part of a noun phrase.
The cat – cat is the noun and the is known as a determiner.
A determiner is a small class of words which are used at the beginning of noun phrases. There is usually only one determiner in a noun phrase.
A noun phrase is a group of words in which the noun is the word that is the most important one in terms of understanding eg
the cat is a simple noun phrase.
the old cat is a noun phrase: it is the cat that is the essential item here as the word old cannot stand alone; it requires another word to make meaning clear.
the bar of chocolate is also a noun phrase but in this case, it is the word bar that is the important item in the phrase; chocolate provides further information and understanding but is not the essential (or head) noun.
If you want to test your knowledge, the following is a useful link:
If you need any more information or advice on nouns, please post a comment. More than happy to help!
Crystal, D. 2000. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of The English Language. Cambridge: Cambridge Univerity Press
http://www.english-grammar-revolution.com/what-is-a-noun.html [accessed online 2/2/15
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