The Definition Of A Noun

A noun, or naming word, is used to refer to people, places, things, or abstract ideas, etc. Nouns can usually, but not always, be singular or plural. That is, you can have one of them, several, or many of them. They have number. House is a noun. I live in a house (singular) and there are quite a few houses (plural) on my street. Just to throw a spanner in the works, think about water: is that singular or plural? (see uncountable nouns, later).

Types Of Nouns

There are several different types of noun:

  • Proper Noun - a proper noun is a noun that refers to a specific entity. Proper nouns always start with a capital letter, for example, Susan, Cambridge University and the French.
  • Common Noun - a common noun describes a general, unspecific category of entity. Whereas Jonathan is a proper noun because it represents a specific person, the word person itself is a common noun because it can refer to anyone.
  • Countable Noun - a countable noun is simply a noun that can be counted, like car, star or bar. And anything else that doesn't rhyme with "ar" :-)
  • Uncountable Noun - like its name suggests, an uncountable noun (or mass noun) cannot be counted and so don't have a plural form. Examples include grass and air.
  • Concrete Noun - concrete nouns are tangible, i.e. they can be touched, tasted, smelled, seen or felt. I can see my foot, therefore "foot" is a concrete noun
  • Abstract Noun - in contrast to concrete nouns, abstract nouns cannot be perceived by the senses. Abstract nouns refer to theoretical concepts like diplomacy and intelligence.
  • Collective Noun - collective nouns are nouns that refer to a grouping of other nouns. A pride of lions is a collective noun.