Traditionally, we are taught that a noun is a word or part of a speech (other than a pronoun) that identifies places, people, or things. However, most linguistics find the definition insufficient and misleading. Modern linguists argue that using the word “things” to describe what a noun is, leaves the learner with more questions than answers.
As a matter of fact, according to talkenglish.com, of the 2265 most commonly used words, 1524 were found to be nouns. Their usage sounds common, right?
To understand the subject conclusively, we need to know that there are different types and classifications of nouns. Below, we’ll take you through categories of different kinds of nouns using easy to grasp examples. Let’s dive in.
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Types of Nouns
There are several types of nouns; however, nouns can be classified into two major classes. In this article, we’ll discuss them in detail. The two major classes are proper and common nouns.
A proper noun is the specific name of a person, place, months, or organization.
For example, John, United Nations, South Africa, Africa, and Nigeria are common nouns.
- John is my friend.
- The United Nations secretariat emailed me yesterday.
- South Africa is considered to be the richest country in Africa after Nigeria.
It is important to note that all proper nouns start with a capital letter no matter where they occur in a sentence. Do you want to check more examples and their usage in a sentence? Great, check them here.
Common nouns are the known names for something or places; they are general proper nouns. Unlike proper nouns, common nouns are not capitalized.
For example, state, city, country, car, son, daughter, etc. are common nouns.
The difference between proper nouns and common nouns is that the former represents actual names, but the latter does not. To clarify, the word “John” is a proper noun, but the word “boy” is a common noun. Similarly, the word “Cape Town” is a proper noun, but the word “city” is a common noun.
Common nouns can be further classified into five classes as follows;
Countable nouns are those nouns that can be tallied or numbered. They can also be divided into two groups;
- Singular countable nouns – For a noun to be a singular countable noun, it must be preceded by an article(a/an/the) or a determiner (this/these, that/those).
For example; The cow is violent.
I borrowed these trousers.
- Plural countable nouns – Plural nouns end with -s, -es, -ves, etc.
For example; Houses, wives, etc. (Check the plural rules and more examples here.)
They are also referred to as non-countable nouns. These nouns are never preceded by an article (a/an/the); however, descriptive words can quantify them. These descriptive words are called quantifiers and include; some, a few, little, a lot, droplets of, etc.
- The apple had some droplets of water.
- There was very little sugar left in the can etc.
Collective nouns are used to address a group of people or a group of things or items. They classify items into one noun. Some examples of collective nouns include;
- Swarm- a group of bees or insects.
- Herd- a group of herbivorous animals like cows and goats.
- class- a group of students or learning mates.
- Shoal- a group of fish.
- Mob- a group of angry people.
- Crew- a group of workmates or planes and ship personnel.
- Panel- a group of professionals and experts.
- Choir- a group of singers
Collective nouns address the groups as a collective whole without necessarily seeming to count the individual units.
These are nouns whose identity can be known through taste, touch, smell, seeing, or hearing. They can be proper nouns, common nouns, collective nouns, countable nouns, and uncountable nouns. Concrete nouns can be singular or plural.
Examples of concrete nouns include phone, rainbow, house, goat, chicken, etc. everything that can be seen, heard, touched, smelt, and tasted.
Examples in a sentence
- I saw a rainbow.
- I heard the thunders.
Abstract nouns cannot be identified with either of the five senses (hear, see, smell, touch, and taste)
Edwin is very kind. Kind is an abstract noun because you cannot smell, hear, touch, see, or taste it. Other examples of Abstract nouns include peace, love, hunger, fear, etc.
Other types of nouns
They’re other types of nouns in the English language. However, the nouns are modified from the abovenamed list to serve their purpose in the sentence structure. They include;
Proper nouns are used in a sentence to show who or what has or owns something. They are modified by an apostrophe and s (‘s) to form singular possessive nouns and (s’) for plural nouns or when the owners are many.
- Tom’s car has broken down(singular)
- I saw a girls’ boarding school (plural to show many girls)
- Compound nouns
They are formed through the joining of two or more nouns. They can be formed through closed-form, hyphenated or open form. Take a look at the examples below.
- Playground (The closed form)
- Co-driver (hyphenated)
- Post office (Open form)
- Gender nouns
Gender nouns are associated with a certain gender. They can be grouped into two; masculine gender nouns and feminine gender nouns.
Masculine gender nouns represent males and include nouns like the king, man, boy, and bull, while feminine gender nouns are for females. They include queen, woman, girl, etc.
Gerund nouns are formed from verbs and can only be well illustrated when in sentences. Here are some examples.
- Speeding is disastrous (formed from the verb “to speed”)
- Running caused him troubles (formed from the verb “to run”)
In conclusion, nouns are very important in the English language, and knowing the different types is a milestone. Understanding English as a language begins by doing so in the simple basics like what a noun is, the different types, and which nouns should be capitalized. Understanding nouns builds your confidence in writing.
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