What are Nouns?

Along with verbs, nouns are considered the scaffolding of sentences. Nouns are equivalent to names. They represent people, places, things, feelings, and ideas. They are the name of everything in existence. It’s only important to master nouns first before moving on to more complex parts of speech and language components.

Almost all sentences contain at least one noun. Multiple nouns can appear in one sentence, each one with a specific function. They are often preceded by articles “ a”, “an”, and “the” or other determiners such as this, my, some, ten, another, such, etc.

Let’s look at some examples of nouns in sentences:

  • They’re selling their appliances to raise funds.
  • Petya will ride the roller coaster if everyone else will.
  • The boss is looking for an employee who can work well under pressure.

Nouns Rules

Nouns have three primary functions in sentences: subjects, objects, and complements.

Nouns as subjectsWhen nouns function as subjects, they commonly appear at the beginning of sentences, before the verbs. For example:

Alli works in a high-end spa downtown.
– Our HR personnel wanted exit interviews to be enlightening, but I didn’t care.
Bogart was a mess when Hailen left.
Nouns as ObjectsWhen nouns function as objects, they typically appear after verbs. As objects, they can be direct or indirect.

Direct objects are easy to identify. You can find them by asking the question who/m or what the verb’s action is directed to. In other words, they receive the main verbs’ actions. For example:

– Sakura punched the wall by accident.
– Please call Jemimah this instant.
– Ravishan painted the door a nice green.

Not all sentences have indirect objects, but when do, they are the nouns that “receive” direct objects. For example:

– Killian handed Lydia a check secretly. (“check” receives the action of the verb “handed”, and “Lydia” is receiving the check)
– The headmaster sent my mom a record of my progress. (“record” receives the action of the verb “sent”, and “mom” is receiving the record)
– Lira told Roland the secret of the dish. (“secret” receives the action of the verb “told”, and “Roland” is receiving the secret)
Nouns as ComplementsWhen nouns describe or modify other nouns, they function as complements.

Subject complements add details to the subjects of sentences. They come after linking verbs and commonly represent professions or job positions. For example:

– Edwin works as a copyeditor for Thornbridge.
– You’re a blessing to the foundation.
– Jackie is the current supervisor at Lee Factory.

Object complements appear after direct objects and give more details about them. This structure, however, is rare. For example:

– The team chose Nikko as the leader.
– This is my friend Johnny.
– Ly named the chickens Charlie’s Angels.
Noun Rules Table

Noun Types and Examples

There are many types of nouns, which often intersect. A common noun, for example, can be concrete, countable, and collective at the same time. The classifications are usually paired to exhibit a contrast in usage. Here are brief descriptions of noun types and some examples.

Common and Proper Nouns

Common nouns are general names while proper nouns are specific. Common nouns are only capitalized when they start sentences while proper nouns are capitalized at all times.

– We booked at a 5-star hotel after a half-off reservation sale.
– The island is popular for scuba diving.
– Shangri La Boracay looks and feels like it’s a different world.
Jeju Island doesn’t require a visa.
Common and Proper Nouns Table

Singular and Plural Nouns

Singular nouns only count as one in number while plural nouns refer to more. Regular nouns use the suffices –s and –es to form their plurals. Irregular nouns change their spelling. Some nouns have the same singular and plural forms.

– What kind of disciplinary actions do you impose on your child?
– Drink a capsule before breakfast and another one after dinner.
– The children will surely spend hours in the pool.
– I have a hard time swallowing capsules even if there’s plenty of water.
Singular and Plural Nouns Table

Countable and Uncountable Nouns

As their names suggest, countable nouns can be counted while uncountable nouns (or mass or non-count nouns) can’t.

CountableUncountable (Mass)
– There are a lot of used perfume bottles lining his dresser.
– How many orders did they place?
– To keep hatred in your heart is a toxic choice.
– May I have some milk on my tea?
Countable and Uncountable Nouns Table

Concrete and Abstract Nouns

Concrete nouns are sensory words, which means they are apparent to the five senses. Abstract nouns don’t have physical forms.

– This icing has the texture of custard.
– I wonder what kind of table would look good in this room.
– His enthusiasm never waned.
– Call me crazy, but I work better if chaos is around me.
Concrete and Abstract Nouns Table

Collective Nouns

Collective nouns represent groups. Despite them referring to multiple units, they are considered singular nouns. They can have plural forms, which signify more than one group.

  • Your team is suspended until further notice.
  • Which group needed a bigger dressing room?
  • The band was in the zone from the moment they played the first note.

Compound Nouns

Compound nouns are two or more nouns paired together to form a single unit. They can appear as separate words, combined, or hyphenates.

  • Can you tell Shana her sister-in-law wants a word with her?
  • What I would do for a can opener right now.
  • Sunbathing can be very relaxing, but I’m tanned enough as it is.
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Nouns Exercises with Answers

Exercise on Nouns

Identify which type of nouns the words in bold are in the following sentence. Pick your answer from the choices given.

1. The car swerved to avoid hitting the deer.

a. common noun
b. proper noun
c. collective noun

2. I’m too scared of losing my humanity.

a. proper noun
b. collective noun
c. abstract noun

3. A herd of cows is grazing inside our property line.

a. abstract noun
b. collective noun
c. uncountable noun

4. Secrets are not the only currency in the palace.

a. collective noun
b. compound noun
c. countable noun

5. Beatrix had roared and rampaged through the streets.

a. abstract noun
b. proper noun
c. collective noun


1. car: a. common noun

2. humanity: c. abstract noun

3. herd: b. collective noun

4. secrets: c. countable noun

5. Beatrix: b. proper noun

English Grammar Learning Infographic

Nouns List

The following table lists more examples of nouns according to type. Singular and plural nouns are excluded as they are quite obvious.

Noun TypesExamples
Common Nounstoy, celebrity, prince, municipality, podcast, pond, series
Proper NounsPrada, Hilton Hotel, Singapore, The Mayfair Witches, Dwayne Johnson, Lake Tahoe
Countablebutterflies, gardens, tree, husks, hedges, knobs, foyer
Uncountablesoil, starlight, silver, clay, anxiety, patience, satin
Concreteblanket, plushy, marker, cellphone, dots, venue, signatures
AbstractHinduism, joy, friendship, love, knowledge, astonishment, shock
Collectivebunch, pack, bouquet, pride, army, crew, group
Compoundpaper towel, daughter-in-law, team leader, food truck, supplement drink, bedroom, jack-in-the-box
Noun Types Table

Advice for ESL Students & English Language Learners

Use Grammar ListsGrammar guides (lists, tables, charts, and diagrams) are useful in grammar orientation. The first advantage is they are simplified to their basics, making them easier to understand, remember, and review.
Use Audio-Visual ResourcesConsistent and considerable exposure to English media can show you how native and non-native English speakers use English in a variety of tasks. Exposure should come with the intent to learn. which means you just don’t only watch a movie or listen to a podcast, but also intend to take note of the language elements that you can use later on.
Practical UseThe saying “Theory means nothing without practice.” Obviously, not all students are in areas where English is widely spoken or used, but there’s always a way to create your own environment for learning. You can put together a study group of like-minded people, from school or your circle of friends. You can think of interesting activities and tasks to keep yourselves engaged in every session. This practice will improve your language levels significantly.
Table of Learning Advice for Studying English
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Common Errors Made by English Learners

Rules to RememberExplanation
Subject-Verb AgreementSingular nouns add the -s or -es suffixes in their plural forms. Meanwhile, verbs add them to their singular forms. Because of this, it’s sometimes confusing to English learners. Be aware of the rule and make an effort to match your subjects with your verbs appropriately.
PluralizationLearn to tell countable and uncountable nouns apart to apply the correct rules of pluralization. Remember that some nouns don’t have plural forms. Also, some types of nouns that aren’t normally used as plurals can be used as such in specific contexts.
Using Articles a, an, and theNouns almost always come with articles. We use the indefinite articles “a” or “an” for singular nouns, and “the” for both singular and plural nouns. We use “an” with nouns that start with vowel sounds – not letters, which is where the confusion comes from. The word “hour” starts with a vowel sound, so we say “an hour” even though it begins with a consonant. We use “a” with words that start with consonant sounds. For example, the word “university.”
Nouns Common Errors Table

Learning Strategies and Best Practices with Nouns

Here are some strategies that can help you identify nouns and follow their rules accurately:

Common and Proper NounsCommon nouns aren’t capitalized. Proper nouns are always capitalized.
Plural FormsSome nouns have no plural forms. For example money, information, furniture, etc.

Some nouns look plural but are actually singular. For example billiards, news, physics, etc.

Some nouns only have plural forms and can’t be used as singular nouns. For example jeans, headphones, scissors, etc.
Concrete and Abstract NounsTake note that some abstract nouns can be perceived through actions we can observe. For example, we all know what love looks like from the behavior of people who feel it, but the word itself doesn’t have a physical form. If a noun isn’t sensory, it is an abstract noun.
QuantifiersCount nouns use quantifiers that signify numbers: a number of, very few, many, etc..

Mass nouns use quantifiers that signify amount: much, a bit of, a little, etc.
Nouns Learning Strategies Table
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Nouns Frequently Asked Questions

Once you master nouns, you won’t need a checklist. But here are some guidelines you can check when reading a word and figuring out whether it’s a noun or not:

– Is it a name?
– Is the word capitalized even though it’s non at the start of a sentence?
– Does an article (i.e. “a”, “an” or “the”) or a determiner (e.g. some, my, this, etc.) precede it? Remember that descriptive adjectives can go after the article and before a noun (e.g. a big house).

If the answer is yes to any of these questions, you’re looking at a noun.

The number depends on your references. For instance, singular and plural nouns are sometimes considered sub-types, and some consider them as their own types that are further divided into regular and irregular nouns.

Meanwhile, some references don’t list them as noun types at all and consider them simply as different forms of nouns. The types of nouns covered by most books and references are the following: common and proper nouns; countable and uncountable (mass) nouns, concrete and abstract nouns, collective nouns, compound nouns, and singular and plural nouns.

You might encounter books that classify gerunds as a noun type, although they are technically derivatives of verbs that function as nouns. Possessive nouns are often listed as a form of noun, but some consider it a different type as well. Other grammar experts include attributive nouns, which describe the main words of compound nouns. For example, assistant manager. “Assistant” is the attributive noun.

Appositives are nouns or noun phrases that appear after other nouns to give further details about them. They’re usually surrounded by commas. For example: “Her maid of honor Donita delivered a funny and heartfelt speech.” and “Your position at the office, a team leader, requires objectivity in disputes.”

All sensory nouns are concrete. A chair is something you can touch and see, and in some cases even smell or taste. You can even hear it if someone hits or throws it. Even invisible things, but things we know exist, can be concrete. Even characters from books, when used in sentences as physical subjects, are considered concrete nouns. Abstract nouns do not have these qualities.

You can’t count mass nouns because they represent words that are impossible to tally such as salt, snow, water, rice, milk, and so on. Meanwhile, collective nouns refer to collections or groups such as team, troupe, family, committee, club, etc. Mass nouns have no plural forms and always use singular verbs.

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