Nouns in English Grammar

What is a noun?

Nouns are naming words. They are often used with an article (a/an/the) or a determiner (this, my, some …) and sometimes they are replaced by pronouns.

My dog loves treats. (animal)
Love is all you need. (idea)
I have never met that woman. (person)
Which restaurant did you go to? (place)
The book will be released in May. (object)

There are different types of nouns in English grammar: countable and uncountable nouns, common and proper nouns, abstract or concrete nouns and collective nouns.

Nouns in English grammar also have different forms, e.g. singular nouns, plural nouns, possessive nouns or the gerund.

Forms of Nouns in English Grammar

Singular or plural

Nouns can be singular or plural. Plural nouns are generally formed by adding -s or -es but there are some exceptions.

I have one dog and Liz has three dogs.
We are moving house and we need a lot of boxes.
This shop specialises in knives.

Learn more about spelling rules and exceptions for plural nouns in English grammar at the plurals nouns section of the website.

Possessive nouns and apostrophes

In addition to singular or plural, nouns can also be possessive.

This means that we add an apostrophe s (or sometimes just an apostrophe) to a noun to indicate ownership.

Elizabeth’s dog ran away last night.

Head over to our page on possessive nouns to learn how to use apostrophes correctly..

Types of Nouns In English Grammar

Standard nouns are known as common nouns. The majority of nouns in English are common nouns.

They are always written with a lowercase letter unless they appear at the beginning of a sentence.

That man has walked past three times.
Which countries are in North America?
There are five chairs in our office.

Proper nouns are usually names of specific people, countries, places, towns or concepts.

In English, proper nouns are always written with a capital letter.

Elizabeth is the Queen of England.
Canada is a country in North America.

A concrete noun refers to a real physical thing.

A concrete noun is something we can reach out and touch; i.e. a material object.

Common examples of concrete nouns include apple, cat, mountain, office, table, etc.

The dog jumped over the fence.

An abstract noun refers to a concept or idea.

An abstract noun does not exist as a material object.

Some examples of abstract nouns include beauty, friendship, happiness, knowledge, information etc.

Love is a powerful emotion.
I need some information about the museum.

Countable nouns (also called count nouns) can be counted used in singular and plural.

one car, two cars
I have one suitcase, but Janice had three suitcases.

Uncountable nouns cannot be counted.

They have just one form and cannot be used in the plural.

The traffic is very bad today.
Janice has a lot of luggage.

See our article on countable/uncountable nouns to learn more.

Collective nouns are sometimes called group words because they describe a group of people or things as one single unit.

Common examples include: audience, band, family, group, government etc.

In English, collective nouns can be followed by a singular or plural verb depending on the intention of the speaker.

My family is visiting next week. ↔ My family are visiting next week.

A compound noun is a noun formed with two or more different words.

Compound nouns can be written as one word, two separate words or joined by a hyphen.

Watermelon is my favourite fruit.
French fries aren’t very healthy.
Ice-cream is delicious.

The gerund (verb+ing) is a verb form which functions as a noun.

Walking is a great way to exercise.
We like to do the shopping on Saturday morning.
James went swimming yesterday.

To learn more about the gerund in English grammar, go to the infinitive/gerund page in the verbs section of the website.