Noun Meaning, Types, Rules & Examples

Noun Meaning: A noun is a word that names a person, place, thing, idea, or quality. For examples;

Noun Examples
boy, teacher, doctor, mother
Miami, city, United States
house, tree, bicycle, ice cream
truth, illusion, fantasy
beauty, loyalty, bravery

In a sentence, nouns can function as the subject or the object of a verb or preposition.

A noun that names a person or people answers the question, “Who?” A noun that names one or more animals, places, or things answers the question, “What?”

There are various types of nouns such as common nouns, proper nouns, abstract nouns, collective nouns, countable nouns, and uncountable nouns, etc. and it’s important to know the different ways each type can be used in a sentence. 

Here you’ll learn the definition of each type of noun with examples as well as the ways each type of noun can be used in a sentence.

Common and Proper Nouns

Nouns that identify general people, places, or things are called common nouns—they name or identify that which is common among others.

On the other hand, proper nouns are specific names of individual people, groups of people, places, and things. They are written with capital letters, no matter where they appear in a sentence.

If a professional title is used with the name, it is capitalized as well. For example:

• “Thank you, Mrs. Smith, for being here.”
• “It’s so nice to meet you, Doctor Jenner.”

Common noun = Common name 
Proper noun = Specific name

See the difference between common and proper nouns

Common Noun Proper Noun
New York

Concrete and Abstract Nouns

Concrete nouns name people, places, animals, or things that are physically tangible— that is, they can be seen or touched, or have some physical properties.

  • table
  • rocks
  • lake
  • countries
  • people
  • rocks
  • lake
  • countries
  • people
  • child
  • water
  • bread

Abstract Nouns

Abstract nouns, as their name implies, name intangible things, such as concepts, ideas, feelings, characteristics, attributes, etc. you cannot see or touch these kinds of things.

List of  abstract nouns:

  • love
  • hate
  • decency
  • conversation
  • emotion
  • doubt
  • height
  • geography
  • intelligence
  • patience
  • kindness
  • generosity
  • courage
  • independence
  • pride
  • selfishness
  • Bondage
  • Childhood
  • Friendship
  • Manhood
  • Robbery
  • Patriotism
  • Cowardice
  • Rudeness
  • Danger
  • Duty
  • Confidence
  • Absence
  • Abundance
  • Accuracy
  • Brutality
  • Death
  • Difference
  • Fertility
  • Goodness
  • Womanhood
  • Priesthood
  • Infancy
  • Scarcity
  • Rigidity
  • Dictatorship
  • Heroism
  • Motherhood
  • Ownership
  • Justice
  • Length
  • Necessity
  • Nationality
  • Beauty
  • Slavery
  • Royalty
  • Regularity
  • Richness
  • Prudence
  • Proficiency
  • Pride
  • Poverty
  • Obedience
  • Privacy
  • Politeness
  • Selfishness
  • Honesty
  • Modesty
  • Depth
  • Wisdom
  • Strength
  • Weakness
  • Bravery
  • Truth
  • Cruelty
  • Foolishness

Collective Nouns

A collective noun is a singular noun that names a collection or group of multiple people, animals, or things.

However, even though collective nouns refer to multiple individuals, they still function as singular nouns in a sentence.

Here are some examples of collective nouns:’

team- a group of players working together
class- a group of students studying together
family- a group of people related by blood

Plural-only collective nouns

Certain collective nouns can only be plural, such as “police.” For example:

✖ “The police is investigating the matter.” (incorrect)
✔ “The police are investigating the matter.” (correct)

Here are some other examples of collective nouns that can only be plural:

  • people
  • children
  • poultry
  • vermin
  • cattle

List of collective nouns:

  1. Collection of people:
    – a board of trustees
    – a brigade of cavalry
    – a crowd of people
    – a group of students
    – a batch of pupils
    – a bench of judges
    – a colony of people
    – a council of ministers
    – a gang of thieves
  2.  Collection of animals:
    – a troop of lions 
    – a troop of monkeys
    – a swarm of flies 
    – a swarm of bees
    – a stud of horses
    – a school of fishes
    – a school of whales
    – a hive of bees
    – a herd of deer
    – a flock of sheep
  3. Collection of things:
    – an album of photos
    – a bale of cotton
    –  a bale of wood
    – a basket of fruits
    – a bunch of flowers
    – a bunch of grapes

Countable and Uncountable Nouns

On the basis of countability, there are two types of nouns;

  1. Countable Noun
  2. Uncountable Noun 

Countable Noun

Countable nouns are the names of separate objects, people, ideas, etc, which can be counted. We can use numbers and the article a/an with countable nouns; they have plurals. For instance: 

a cat                   three cats
a newspaper     two newspapers

Singular and Plural Nouns

Nouns that can be counted i.e. countable nouns have two forms:

  1. Singular noun
  2. Plural noun

Singular noun

A singular noun names one person, animal, place, thing, or abstraction.

girl, boy, doctor
town, airport, area
house, piano, radio
idea, science, problem

To use a singular noun,

  1. always use a noun determiner (a/an, the, one, this, that, any, each, every, another, either, neither, my, your, his, her, our, their, or a possessive noun).
  2. use a singular verb if it acts as a subject.

Plural noun

A plural noun names two or more people, animals, places, things, or abstractions.

We apply the following rules to make plurals:

1. Most nouns are made plural, by adding ‑s to the end.

girls, boys, doctors
towns, airports, areas
houses, radios, pens, fans
ideas, sciences, problems

2. If the singular noun ends in ‑s, -ss, -sh, -ch, -x, -z, or -o add ‑es to the end to make it plural.

witches, heroes,
watches, dresses, bushes, boxes
crashes, tornadoes

3. If the singular ends in consonant + у (for example -by, -dy, -ту, -ty), the plural is normally made by changing у to i and adding -es.

ladies, babies
cities, universities
bodies, factories
philosophies, studies

4. Some nouns ending in f or fe, drop the f(e) and add ves:

knives, leaves

Some nouns that ends in -f or -fe can have plurals in either -fs or -ves.

Scarf Ends in -f
Hoof Ends in -f
Scarfs or Scarves
Hoofs or Hooves

5. Irregular plural (no rule to make them plural) e.g child-children, mouse-mice, ox-oxen, etc. See the list:

Singular Plural

To use plural nouns,  

  1. a noun determiner is optional. You can use the, zero, all numbers except one, these, those, any, no, either, neither, other, some, both, few, enough, plenty, of, a lot of, lots of, many, all, my, your, his, her, its, our, their, or a possessive noun.
  2. use a base form of the verb if they act as a subject.

Uncountable Noun

Uncountable nouns are the names of materials, liquids, abstract qualities, collections and other things which we see as masses without clear boundaries, and not as separate objects.

See the list of uncountable nouns:

  1. A group of diverse things such as;
    – furniture
    – jewelry
    – mail
    – equipment
    – machinery
    – hardware
    – makeup
    – luggage
  2. an item made up of parts that are too small to count:
    – hair
    – sugar
    – rice
    – salt
    – sand
    – dust
    – flour
  3. an activity or abstraction made up of variable parts:
    – advice 
    – news
    – information
    – work
    – music
  4. Liquids:
    – oil
    – water
    – milk
    – soup
    – Juice
  5. Metals & materials;
    – plastic
    – steel
    – granite
    – gold
    – silver

Uncountable nouns are grammatically singular, they must take singular forms of their verbs. Here are a few examples illustrating this distinction:

✖ “The furnitures in my living room are old.” (incorrect)
✖ “The furnitures in my living room is old.” (incorrect)
✔ “The furniture in my living room is old.” (correct)
✖ “Their behaviors are not good.” (incorrect)
✔ “Their behavior is not good.” (correct)

Compound Noun

When a noun has two or more parts (ie. water bottle), we call it a compound noun.

Generally, the first word in the compound noun tells us what kind of person or thing it is or what purpose he, she, or it serves, while the second word defines the person or object, telling us who or what it is. For example:

  • police + man = policeman (a police officer who is a man)
  • water + bottle = water bottle (a bottle used for water)
  • dining + room = dining room (a room used for dining)

A compound nouns can be modified by other adjectives. For example:

  • “I need to buy a large water bottle.”
  • “That’s a beautiful dining room.”

Forming compound nouns

Compound nouns are usually made up of two nouns or an adjective and a noun, but other combinations are also possible, as well.

Noun + noun

There are a number of compound nouns formed using the noun + noun combination. For example:

  • backpack
  • bathroom
  • bathtub
  • bedroom
  • bus stop
  • fish tank
  • football
  • handbag
  • motorcycle
  • shopkeeper
  • tablecloth
  • toothpaste
  • wallpaper
  • water bottle

Noun formed with (-ing) + Noun

We make compound nouns with the -ing form. For instance:

  • frying pan
  • washing machine
  • swimming pool

Adjective + Noun

There are also many compound nouns that are formed using the adjective + noun combination. For example:

  • full moon
  • blackberry
  • blackbird
  • blackboard
  • mobile phone
  • hardware
  • highway
  • greenhouse
  • redhead
  • six-pack
  • small talk
  • software
  • whiteboard

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