Nouns Definition and Examples

What are Nouns?

Almost all sentences in English are comprised of at least one noun. Nouns are names of people, places, things, concepts, and ideas. They are considered one of the main parts of speech, along with verbs, as a single noun and a single verb can essentially create complete sentences. “I sing,” for example. Multiple nouns can appear in one sentence, each one with specific functions in sentences. They are often preceded by articles (i.e. the indefinite articles “a” and “an” or the definite article “the.”) or other determiners (e.g. this, my, a lot of, one, other, such, and so on).

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

  • This restaurant is famous for its spring rolls.
  • Brendan wished for a dog on his birthday.
  • The company hired Pedro for his incredible skill in research.
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Nouns Rules

Nouns have three primary roles in sentences. They can be subjects, objects, and subject complements.

(Note: pronouns function the same way, but pronouns have their own dedicated page in our blog; you could search terms of any grammar subject and you’ll find comprehensive English language articles in Feel free to take a look around.)

Nouns as subjectsAs subjects, nouns typically appear at the start of sentences and before verbs. For example:

Jim plays online games all day long.
Asahi is going to the bank for a long-term loan.
– Our technicians have been working on the server issues since yesterday.
Nouns as ObjectsAs objects, nouns usually appear in the latter half of sentences, after verbs. They either work as direct or indirect objects.

You can find direct objects by asking the question who/m or what. Direct objects receive the actions of the main verbs. For example:

– Letty scolded her daughter for breaking the vase.
– She will take the matter to court.
– Can we have hamburgers tonight?

Meanwhile, indirect objects “receive” direct objects. For example:

– Noli gave Samara a knitted sweater. (“sweater” receives the action of the verb “gave”, and “Samara” is receiving the sweater)
– They sent their pen pals letters every week. (“letters” receives the action of the verb “sent”, and “pen pals” is receiving the letters)
– Yolanda told Shuresh the story behind it. (“story” receives the action of the verb “told”, and “Shuresh” is receiving the story)
Nouns as ComplementsNouns function as complements when they describe or add details to other nouns. When nouns are used to describe other nouns, they function as complements.

Subject complements modify the subjects of sentences. They come after linking verbs and usually refer to jobs or job positions, but not always. For example:

– Darla is the operations manager of SM.
– Ben works as a physical therapist at his father’s clinic.
– She’s a gift to her parents.

Object complements, on the other hand, appear after direct objects and give more details about them. For example:

– They named the stray dog Barbara Streisand.
– The class chose Nancy as the monitor.
– Hai called his latest robot Conan.
Table of Noun Rules
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Examples of Nouns

There are many types of nouns. The following list will define them concisely and give examples in sentences:

1. 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.

  • Tony managed the housekeeping team at Astoria. Proper
  • Can’t a guy just enjoy his sandwich in peace around here? Common
  • Hyatt Jeju is popular for its buffets. Proper
  • Simone didn’t know that she was picking up nine cats today. Common
  • The older girls wanted to watch Annabelle but the younger girls were scared. Proper

2. 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.

  • They are excited to see the horses tomorrow. Plural
  • The plumber found the cause of the leak immediately. Singular
  • Sarah informed the designers that food will be served to them during the event. Plural
  • Dreams come true; they don’t come free. Plural
  • I have heard people say my house is haunted but nothing strange has happened. Singular

3. Countable and Uncountable Nouns

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

  • Patsy kept the water warm while she soaked her feet in it. Uncountable
  • Who has the access cards to the rooms in the upper wing? Countable
  • The bands huddled in groups before the parade. Countable
  • How would you know how much powder to put without measurements? Uncountable
  • Scuba diving gave me a different kind of peace. Uncountable

4. Concrete and Abstract Nouns

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

  • Mely has a suspicion that they’re trying to push her out of the company. Abstract
  • I can’t believe she swung at him with a baseball bat. Concrete
  • Can you take these papers to the accounting floor real quick? Concrete
  • The central system is made up of a lot of intersecting wires. Concrete
  • I spent my childhood in a coastal town, so white-sand beaches aren’t new to me. Abstract

5. Collective Nouns

A collective noun represents a collection of people and things. Despite it referring to multiple units, it’s considered a singular noun. They can have plural forms, which signify more than one group.

  • Kitty’s staff are very protective of her.
  • A herd of cows broke into our sugarcane field.
  • We have disseminated new information to the search team.
  • The choir sounded awesome at the Thanksgiving event.
  • Everyone in the band agrees Sugar is the glue that keeps them together.

6. Compound Nouns

Compound nouns are two or more nouns paired together to form a single person, thing, or idea. They can appear as separate words, combined, or hyphenates. Take note that they don’t always come as two nouns. They can be other parts of speech as well, as long as they act as nouns.

  • The associate director wanted to speak to Saul’s team.
  • My mother-in-law always brings a harvest basket when she visits.
  • Excuse me, can you point me toward the bathroom?
  • Man, I’m having a toothache just by looking at that cake.
  • This is my favorite TV series of all time.
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Nouns Exercises with Answers

Exercise on Nouns

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

1. Your paintbrush is in the top drawer.

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

2. It’s never good to have pent-up anger.

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

3. A murder of crows besieged the community.

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

4. There are mysterious creatures in the forest.

a. collective noun
b. abstract noun
c. countable noun

5. Agatha has written more essays than any other teacher I know.
a. abstract noun
b. proper noun
c. collective noun

B. Identify which noun function the words in bold are in the following sentence. Pick your answer from the choices given.

1. The brand was new to her.

a. subject
b. object
c. complement

2. Leslie drove the car around the property.
a. direct object
b. indirect object
c. subject complement

3. They showed their boss a video greeting.

a. direct object
b. indirect object
c. subject complement

4. He wasn’t a suspect in the case.
a. subject
b. object
c. complement

5. The kids finished their homework before dinner.

a. subject
b. object
c. complement


Exercise A

1. paintbrush: a. common noun

2. anger: c. abstract noun

3. murder: b. collective noun

4. creatures: c. countable

5. Agatha: b. proper noun

Exercise B

1. brand: a. subject

2. car: a. direct object

3. video greeting: b. indirect object

4. suspect: b. object

5. homework: b. object

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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 Nounsbrand, businessman, king, city, film, ocean, book
Proper NounsGucci, Henry Sy, King Lear, Seoul, Snowpiercer, Atlantic Ocean, American Gods
Countable Nounsbabies, chair, vehicles, toy, fields, barn, towns
Uncountable Nounsgold, moonlight, excitement, clay, news, cotton, cloth
Concrete Nounsrock, pills, wood, mug, bags, pillow, bananas
Abstract Nounsstrength, honesty, Buddhism, evil, determination, infatuation, fear
Collective Nounsbunch, pack, bouquet, pride, army, crew, group
Compound Nounsfood truck, ice cream, tax collector, brother-in-law, dilly-dally, lovesickness, stock exchange
Noun Types Table

Advice for ESL Students & English Language Learners

The volume of nouns, including their different types, functions, and rules can be tedious to any English language learner trying to master them. Luckily, there are ways to make studying a little less challenging, not only with nouns but with every grammatical subject there is. Consider the following guidelines which could help you reach your language objectives:

1. Use Grammar Lists

Few grammar tools can work as well as grammar guides (lists, tables, charts, and diagrams). While they aren’t the only method for efficient learning, these tools are useful in grammar orientation. One of their benefits is that the topics are simplified and broken down to their basics, making them easier to understand, remember, and review. Another advantage is that they usually contain real-world examples that can help build vocabulary and improve sentence construction. Choose materials that work for you. If none is to your liking, you can make your own lists, which is even better because you can make ones that complement your study habits.

2. Use Audio-Visual Resources

Enrolling in a traditional English class isn’t quite enough to achieve proficiency when you have a time frame in mind. Self-studying is still crucial to language development. To maximize the advantages of independent learning, you need to study with the right resources. Using audio-visual materials is greatly beneficial. Consistent and considerable exposure to English media can show you how native and non-native English speakers use English in a variety of tasks. It should go hand-in-hand with conscious learning, which means you just don’t only watch a movie but also intend to take note of the language elements used in it.

3. Practical Use

There’s a saying that goes, “Theory means nothing without practice.” This is especially true when learning languages. Your teachers can only act as your guides and won’t be there to use the language on your behalf. Being proactive is a valuable quality to push language acquisition further. This means you need to use English every chance you get. Some students are grammar experts but can’t speak English at length. The common reason is that they only use books and never spend sufficient time for actual English conversations. 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.

Additionally, it is important for learners to properly understand types of nouns, cases of nouns and number of nouns singular vs plural.

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Common Errors Made by English Learners

Below are certain rules to learn by heart to avoid making the usual mistakes that English students make when using nouns. However, don’t beat yourself up over your own language blunders. Mistakes are part of learning. Simply be aware of the rules until they become second nature. You’ll be correcting yourself in no time or taking extra care with your sentences:

Rules to RememberExplanation
Subject-Verb AgreementTrain your brain in using the right verb forms to match the subjects of your sentences. This rule can be confusing because singular nouns add the -s or -es suffixes in their plural forms. Meanwhile, verbs add them to their singular forms. Make an effort to match your subjects with your verbs appropriately.
PluralizationLearn to differentiate between countable and uncountable nouns to apply the correct rules of pluralization. Remember that some nouns don’t have plural forms and that some types of nouns that aren’t normally used as plurals can be in specific sentence 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.”
Noun Common Errors Table

Learning Strategies and Best Practices with Nouns

Here are some strategies that can help you determine the right usage of nouns, identify them in sentences, and follow their rules accurately:

Common and Proper NounsCommon nouns aren’t capitalized unless used to start sentences. In some instances, it can be capitalized to show emphasis in creative or persuasive writing. Proper nouns are always capitalized.
Plural FormsSome nouns have no plural forms. For example:

– money
– information
– furniture

Some nouns look plural but are actually singular. For example:

– billiards
– news
– physics

Some nouns only have plural forms and can’t be used as singular nouns. For example:

– jeans
– headphones
– scissors
Concrete and Abstract NounsSensory nouns are concrete, and “concept” nouns are abstract. Take 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.
QuantifiersCount nouns use quantifiers that signify numbers. For example:

– a number of
– very few
– many

Mass nouns (also uncountable or non-countable nouns) use quantifiers that signify amounts. For example:

– much
– a bit of
– a little
Noun Strategies Table
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Nouns Frequently Asked Questions

It changes arbitrarily depending on which book or references you’re using. Some list singular and plural nouns as sub-types but some list them as their own types, and some don’t list them as noun types at all.

Here are the types of nouns covered by most books, which you will encounter at some point or other while studying English: common and proper nouns; countable and uncountable (mass) nouns, concrete and abstract nouns, collective nouns, compound nouns, and singular and plural nouns.

Some resources include gerunds as noun types, but they are technically derivatives of verbs. Gerunds, also called -ing verbs, function as nouns. Additionally, some lists include possessive nouns because of their unique form and function (with apostrophe + -s to show possession). Others also include attributive nouns, which is usually the noun describing the main word of a compound noun. For example, lunch money. “Lunch” is considered attributive.

As obvious in its name, mass nouns (also uncountable or non-countable nouns) can’t be counted, e.g. water, milk, peace, love, rice, and so on. Meanwhile, collective nouns refer to groups of people, animals, or things such as herd, troupe, committee, panel, family, and so on. Mass nouns have no plural form and always use singular verbs.

See if an article (i.e. “a”, “an” or “the”) or a determiner (e.g. some, my, this, etc.) precedes it. Also, descriptive adjectives can go after the article and before a noun (e.g. a huge toy). If the word isn’t at the beginning of a sentence but is capitalized, that’s a noun.

Remember that proper nouns pertain to specific names. By default, a banana represents all the other bananas and therefore isn’t specific. It’s simply a generic name for a type of fruit. But if you’re referring to a particular kind of banana like the Cavendish Banana, that’s when it becomes a proper noun.

In English grammar, Pronouns are what you use as substitutes for nouns when the listener or reader already knows which topic or subject you’re talking about.

They are nouns or noun phrases that appear after other nouns to give further information. They are usually surrounded by commas. Appositive nouns are sometimes included as a separate type of noun. For example: “My friend Dan is a mechanic.” and “My position at work, an accounts manager, isn’t as elevated as it sounds.”

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