Nouns in English Grammar

What is a noun?

Nouns are words that describe animals, ideas, people, places and objects. Nouns are sometimes called thing-words because they describe things. A noun can be the subject or object of a sentence. They are often used with an article or a determiner and sometimes they are replaced by pronouns.

Example:
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 many different types of nouns in English grammar such as countable and uncountable nouns, common and proper nouns, abstract or concrete nouns and collective nouns. Nouns in English grammar also have different forms i.e. singular nouns, plural nouns, possessive nouns or the gerund.

Forms of Nouns in English Grammar

A noun can be used in different forms depending on what it represents and what is being expressed:

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

Example:
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.

Nouns can also express possession. Possessive nouns, also know as the possessive or genitive case, take an apostrophe + -s or sometimes just an apostrophe. Use this noun form together with a second noun to show ownership.

Example:
Elizabeth’s dog ran away last night.

Learn how to form possessive nouns at the possessive case section of the website.

Types of Nouns In English Grammar

A common noun is the generic name for any group of people, places or things of the same type.

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

Whereas, a proper noun is the name of a specific person, place or thing. Proper nouns are alway written with a capital letter.

Example:
Elizabeth is the Queen of England.
Canada is a country in North America.
The Eames Lounge Chair is a very famous design.

A concrete noun refers to a real physical thing. A concrete noun is something we can reach out and touch, it is a material object. Some examples of concrete nouns include apple, cat, mountain, office, table, etc.

Example:
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.

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

Countable nouns are sometimes called count nouns. They are nouns which can be used in singular and plural.

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

An uncountable noun names something that cannot be counted. Uncountable nouns have one form and cannot be used in the plural.

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

Learn more about which nouns are countable and which nouns are uncountable at the countable/uncountable nouns section of the website.

Collective nouns are sometimes called group words because they describe a group of people or things as one single unit. Collective nouns can be followed by a singular or plural verb depending on the intention of the speaker. Some examples of collective nouns include audience, band, family, group, government etc.

Example:
Our team never wins.
The audience listened patiently.

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 dash.

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

The gerund is a verb form which functions as a noun. The gerund always ends with -ing but it should not be confused with the present participle which also ends in -ing. Gerunds are often used as the subject of a sentence and after certain verbs, prepositions and adjectives.

Example:
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. You’ll also find exercises to practise using the gerund.

More About Nouns

For more information about nouns in English grammar as well as exercises to practice English nouns, check out the following pages: