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Nouns : Definition and Types

A noun is the name of anything.

In other words, all naming words are called nouns. The naming words can refer to persons, places, things, events or ideas. Whatever they may refer to, they are called nouns. In simple terms, nouns are names. They can be direct names of persons, places or things such as river, country, India, America, Mahatma Gandhi etc or they can also denote ideas such as beauty, kindness, happiness etc.


Nouns can be of several types.


1. Concrete and Abstract Nouns:


A concrete noun is the name for something which we can perceive with our senses. It has a concrete, physical form. We can see, hear, touch, smell and taste it. Examples: boy, dog, man, table, air, water etc.


But an abstract noun is the name for something which we cannot perceive with our senses. It has no physical form. It refers to a quality, action or state of someone or something. Examples: anger, love, freedom, happiness, sadness etc.


 -ness, -tion, -ism, -ment, -hood, -ship, -dom, -ance, -cy etc are some of the suffixes that make abstract nouns. Examples include kindness, discussion, Hinduism, government, motherhood, friendship, kingdom, clearance, infancy.


2. Proper and Common Nouns:


A proper noun is the name of a specific person, place or thing. Example: The Ganges, India, Mahatma Gandhi etc. A proper noun always begins with a capital letter.


A common noun does not point out any specific person, place or thing. It refers to any and every person, place or thing of the same kind. Example: river, country, boy, minister etc. A common noun is also known as a class noun.


3. Collective and Individual Nouns:


A collective noun is the name of a group or collection of persons, animals or things taken as a whole. The word 'collective' is an adjective from the noun 'collection'. So, it denotes a collection of persons, animals or things as a whole. Some examples of collective nouns are army, regiment, group, band, bunch etc. Some collective nouns are specific to particular words like a pride of lions, a parliament of owls etc but most collective nouns like group, troupe etc can be used with a variety of words. The group or collection is treated as one individual whole and generally the verb that follows a collective noun is used in the singular number. For example, the bundle of papers is lost. Here, the verb 'is' is a singular one. 'Papers' is a plural noun but the verb is in agreement with the collective noun 'bundle'. Another point to be noted is that when we write or say 'a bunch of flowers', a pack of wolves, etc, bunch and pack are collective nouns but flowers and wolves are common noun


Sometimes collective nouns take a plural verb. Such collective nouns are called individual nouns. For example: The police have arrested him. The collective noun 'police' is used here as a plural noun.


4. Material or Mass Nouns:


A material or mass noun refers to the matter or substance of which things are made. Examples: gold, water, milk etc. Ring is a common noun but gold of which it is made is a material noun. River is a common noun but water of which it is made is a material noun etc. 


5. Countable and Uncountable Nouns:


Countable nouns refer to things we can count. Examples: house, boy, men, tree, book, rupee etc.

Uncountable nouns refer to things we can only measure but can't count. Examples: water, milk, sand, land, rice, money etc.


6. Regular and Irregular Nouns: 


Regular nouns are those naming words that form their plural by following a specific pattern. Generally they add an 's' to the end to form plurals. Examples:


Boy - Boys

House - Houses

Baby - Babies

Mango - Mangoes etc.


Irregular nouns are those naming words that don't follow a specific pattern of pluralisation. They change either an inside vowel or the entire word itself to form their plurals. Examples:


Man - Men

Woman - Women

Mouse - Mice

Foot - Feet

Tooth - Teeth

Child - Children

Person - People etc.


7. Verbal Nouns: Most of the English verbs in their 'ing' forms are used as subjects in sentences and function as nouns. They are called verbal nouns. Examples: Reading is my hobby. Walking is a good exercise. Reading and walking here function as nouns.


8. Phrasal Nouns: Many of the phrasal or group verbs sometimes function as nouns instead of phrasal verbs. When such phrasal verbs function as nouns, they are called phrasal nouns. Example: There was a heavy downpour today. He has suffered a mental breakdown. Here downpour and breakdown function as nouns. Some more examples of phrasal nouns: backlash, blackout, backup , check-up, drop-down, get-together. download etc.


9. Compound Nouns: When two separate naming words combine to make one word, they are called compound nouns. Examples: football, school bus, primary school, post office, bedroom etc. Some compound nouns are hyphenated, some are separated by blank space while some are joined.


10. Noun Phrases: A noun phrase is not a noun proper. It cannot be called a category of nouns. But its grammatical function is that of a noun. A noun phrase is a group of words having a noun as its head part of speech and is used as a subject, object or object to a preposition. Example: I want a red pen. Here, 'a red pen' is a noun phrase that has been used as an object of the verb 'want'. 


Classification of nouns into different categories helps us to understand the concept of nouns properly. But it has to be noted that a noun can belong to more than one category. For example, 'glass' is an uncountable noun. But when we say, give me a glass of water, it becomes a countable noun. Gold is a material noun. But in the sentence, the gold of this ring is pure, it has become a common noun. Love is an abstract noun. When we refer to the object of our love by the word, it becomes a concrete and common noun. 

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