Are you still not sure you understand nouns enough? No worries, we will help you understand how nouns are divided and how they are used along with many examples. By the end of this article, you will be mastering the English language a lot more than before.

Here is what you will learn:

  • The different categories of nouns;
  • How do noun + noun combinations work?
  • The structure of possessive nouns;
  • How to use nouns as subjects, objects, and complements;
  • The key rules to remember when using nouns;
  • A guaranteed way to learn more about nouns with GlobalExam.

Let’s start learning English the right way!

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What Are The Different Categories Of Nouns?

A noun is a word that refers to a thing, person, or place and they make up the majority of the English language. There are several types of nouns in phrases, which are:

Common nouns

These are words that refer to general or unclear places, people, or things. For example, the word “country” is a common word that can refer to many places. While “Spain” is not a common noun as it points out a specific place.

Examples of common nouns:

girl, boy, dog, cat, house, etc.

Proper nouns

These are words that help distinguish a specific place, person, or thing. They should always be capitalized because they are mostly names or titles of things.

Examples of proper nouns:

Starbucks, David (or any personal name), France, Grand Canyon, etc.

Singular nouns

These are the words that refer to one place, person, or thing. For example, a banana is one fruit, and a dog is one animal.

Examples of singular nouns:

foot, house, shoe, blouse, etc.

Plural nouns

These are words that refer to multiple things or people. If there are too many of the singular nouns, you add an S to the end of the word to make them plural (e.g., cats, dogs). The nouns that already end with an S, you need to add -es to switch to plural (e.g., buses). Also, there are a few words that don’t follow the same pattern, which we call irregular nouns, such as person = people, life = lives, tuna = tuna, foot = feet.

Examples of plural nouns:

countries, doors, shoes, houses, babies.

Concrete nouns

These are words that can be understood through our five senses. If you can hear, smell, see, taste, or touch something, then it can be used as a concrete noun.

Examples of concrete nouns:

apple, table, rabbit, ear.

Abstract nouns

These are words that explain ideas that can’t be perceived with our five senses, like character traits and social concepts. For example, anger is a word that describes an emotion that we can’t physically touch, see, hear, smell, or taste.

Examples of abstract nouns:

love, democracy, creativity.

Collective nouns

These are words that work as a singular noun but referring to a group of things or people. It describes a group that works as a unit!

Examples of collective nouns:

crowd, team, committee, flocks.

Compound nouns

These are words that combine up to two or more words into one. They can be a single word, multiple words used separately, or connected by hyphens.

Examples of compound nouns:

toothpaste, haircut, potato chip, dry-cleaning, ice cream.

Countable nouns

These are words that you can count. When you have two books, you are describing a noun that can be counted.

Examples of countable nouns:

apple, chair, window, frame.

Uncountable nouns

These are words that cannot be counted, and they are also known as mass nouns. For example, you can’t count love or happiness. We can’t say we have two happiness or five loves. These words don’t have plural forms.

Examples of uncountable nouns:

advice, salt, luggage, hate.

boy writing and studying

What Is The Difference Between Proper And Common Nouns?

The difference between a proper noun and a common noun is what exactly they are referring to. The proper noun is known to be referring to a specific person, place, or thing. For Example, Europe is a proper noun. Also, they always need to be capitalized.

On the other hand, common nouns refer to more generic things. For example, a country is too general and non-specific. Plus, common nouns don’t have to be capitalized unless they come in the beginning of a sentence.

  • Examples of proper nouns: Spain, Julia, Playstation, Samsung, November.
  • Examples of common nouns: place, idea, person, woman, guitar, judge.

Countable and Uncountable Nouns

Knowing how countable and uncountable nouns will make a big difference in your English skills.

What are uncountable nouns?

🡲 Uncountable nouns include liquid or solid substances, materials and commodities (water, leather, gold, information) and abstract ideas (productivity, happiness). With uncountable nouns, we cannot say ‘5 monies’ or ‘an information’.

The following is a list of uncountable nouns which can be tricky:

  • Advice, accommodation, baggage, cash
  • Equipment, furniture, information, luggage
  • Machinery, money, news, progress
  • Traffic, travel, weather, work
  • Time, change, mail, knowledge
  • Evidence

🡲 Uncountable nouns are always in the singular vs plural countable nouns which take a plural verb:

  • The machinery has broken down. vs The 3 fax machines have all broken down.
  • The traffic was especially heavy due to the train strike. vs The cars were stuck in traffic.
  • The furniture doesn’t fit in this room. vs The tables don’t all fit in this room.

🡲We can use ‘some’ (for a small amount or quantity) or ‘a lot of’ (for a big amount or quantity) to qualify the size of an uncountable noun. There may also be the need to use ‘much’ (how much, so much, too much) or ‘little’.

  • They gave me some advice. I only have a little work to finish.
  • How much time does it take? There’s a lot of bad financial news these days.

What are countable nouns?

🡲 Countable nouns are things that we can count! Some examples are objects (a pen, 2 computers), units of measurement (50 meters, 5 dollars), people (one man, two men)…

For countable nouns we can also use ‘some’ and ‘a lot of’. Otherwise, the choice for showing quantity for plural count nouns is ‘many’ or ‘few/a few’:

  • There are many questions to ask. We keep only a few of these models in stock.
  • How many phones do you own? We have so many candidates to choose from.
  • We can also use words of measurement to speak about specific quantities:
  • A bottle of water
  • a cup of coffee
  • a barrel of oil
  • a slice of bread

🡲 When we don’t have or don’t know a specific word of measurement, we can often use ‘piece’.

  • a piece of furniture
  • a piece of information
  • a piece of advice

Article use

🡲 We use the article ‘a’ or ‘an’ before unspecified singular countable nouns:

A smartphone is a helpful tool.

🡲 We can use Ø article (no article) to generalize about uncountable nouns or plural countable nouns:

Smartphones are helpful tools.

Noun + noun combinations: How Does It Work?

We can put nouns together in 2 ways:

  1. Noun + Noun (a horse race)
  2. Preposition structure (the top of the hill)

Noun + Noun

🡲 The first noun acts like an adjective, and should therefore not have a final ‘-s’ as there is no agreement in English between adjectives and nouns.

  • A horse race (a kind of race) vs a race horse (a kind of horse)
  • A shoe shop (NOT a shoes shop)
  • A four-star hotel (NOT a four-stars hotel)

Noun + noun or preposition structure

🡲 We usually prefer a structure with a preposition for less well-known combinations. Compare:

  • a war film a film about an ogre
  • a postman a man from a bank
  • road signs signs of anger
  • a corner table the woman in the corner

🡲 Noun “strings” are OK if they are clear, but they shouldn’t look like this:

  • Employee compensation level evaluation procedures
  • A better way to express this idea would be:
  • Procedures for evaluating the compensation level of employees

What Is the Structure Of Possessive Nouns And How To Use Them

Possessive nouns are also an important element that will show how advanced your English level is.

Noun + Noun or possessive (’s)

🡲 The first noun is often like an object (of a preposition or a verb):

  • A shoe shop = a shop that sells shoes
  • A war film = a film about war

🡲 We most commonly use the possessive (’s) structure to talk about something that belongs to a particular person, group, organization, country of animal. The first noun is often like a subject (usually of the verb have)

  • My friend’s car : my friend has a car
  • Anne’s idea: Anne had an idea

Possessive (’s) or the ‘of’ structure

🡲 We use the possessive (’s) structure especially when the first noun is the name of a person, group of people, organization, country or animal. Otherwise, we generally prefer a structure with ‘of’. Compare:

  • my father’s name the name of the book
  • the company’s structure the structure of plastic
  • America’s influence the influence of alcohol
  • the dog’s leg the leg of the table

🡲 We also use possessive (’s) structure with common time expressions:

  • today’s paper
  • tomorrow’s weather
  • a month’s holiday

Learn How To Use a Noun as Subjects, Objects and Complements

Finally, let’s go over how to use nouns as subjets, objects or complements.

Nouns as subjects

All the English sentences must have a subject, which has to be a noun. This subject can be a place, thing, or person that is being or doing the verb mentioned in the sentence.

Examples:

  • Karla is happy. Karla is the subject.
  • Italy is beautiful. Italy is the subject.

Nouns as objects

The objects of a verb in any English sentence can also be nouns. They can be a direct object or indirect object.

Example:

Give the food to them. Food is the direct object while them is the indirect object.

Nouns as subject and object complements

Nouns can also be used as a subject complement or an object complement.

The subject complement normally follows linking verbs, including to be, seem, and become.

Example:

Eve is a doctor. The underlined word is a subject complement.

On the other hand, object complements usually follow verbs like naming, making, or creating.

Example:

I now pronounce you husband and wife. The underlined word is an object complement.

a traditional caligraphy pen

What Are The Key Rules To Remember When Using Nouns?

Let’s go over the top 5 rules.

Rule #1

The uncountable nouns have to be used in the singular form. Never add an S at the end of the word, even if you are talking about a group of things, places, or people. For example:

  • There is a lot of waters water here.
  • I have so much loves love for her.

Rule #2

There are a few nouns that can be used as both singular and plural forms. The following verb is the only indicator of its form. For example, the deer was/were running. The sheep is/are sleeping.

Rule #3

Some of the nouns that end with S or ES should be used with a singular verb. For example, Mathematics is not easy. Politics is not my specialty.

Rule #4

There are a few nouns that are mostly used in the plural form only with plural verbs. For example, scissors, scales, and jeans.

  • My spectacles were very expensive.
  • Your scissors are better than mine.

Rule #5

When it is a number + noun form, the compound noun is used in the singular form.

  • Ten-year-old son.
  • Five-mile race.

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