Nouns are commonly thought of as "naming" words,
and specifically as the names of "people, places, or things". Nouns such
as John, London, and computer certainly fit this description,
but the class of nouns is much broader than this. Nouns also denote abstract
and intangible concepts such as birth, happiness, evolution,
technology, management, imagination, revenge, politics,
hope, cookery, sport, literacy....
Because of this enormous diversity of reference,
it is not very useful to study nouns solely in terms of their meaning.
It is much more fruitful to consider them from the point of view of their
Characteristics of Nouns
Many nouns can be recognised by their endings.
Typical noun endings include:
||actor, painter, plumber, writer
||criticism, egotism, magnetism, vandalism
||artist, capitalist, journalist, scientist
||arrangement, development, establishment,
||foundation, organisation, recognition,
Most nouns have distinctive SINGULAR and PLURAL
forms. The plural of regular nouns is formed by adding -s to the
However, there are many irregular nouns which
do not form the plural in this way:
The distinction between
singular and plural is known as NUMBER CONTRAST.
We can recognise many nouns because they
often have the, a, or an in front of them:
These words are called determiners, which is the
next word class we will look at.
Nouns may take an
-'s ("apostrophe s") or GENITIVE MARKER to indicate possession:
If the noun already has an -s ending to mark
the plural, then the genitive marker appears only as an apostrophe after
the plural form:
the boy's pen
a spider's web
my girlfriend's brother
The genitive marker should not be confused with the
's form of contracted verbs, as in John's a good boy (= John
is a good boy).
the boys' pens
the spiders' webs
the Browns' house
Nouns often co-occur without a genitive
marker between them:
We will look at these in more detail later, when
we discuss noun phrases.
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Nouns which name specific people or places
are known as PROPER NOUNS.
and Proper Nouns
Many names consist of more than one word:
Proper nouns may also refer to times or to
dates in the calendar:
All other nouns are COMMON NOUNS.
Monday, Tuesday, Christmas, Thanksgiving
Since proper nouns usually refer to something
or someone unique, they do not normally take plurals. However, they may
do so, especially when number is being specifically referred to:
For the same reason, names of people and places
are not normally preceded by determiners the or a/an, though
they can be in certain circumstances:
there are three Davids
in my class
we met two Christmases
it's nothing like the America
my brother is an Einstein
The Survey of English Usage 1996-1998
Supported by RingJohn
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