1. Types of nouns
a) Common Noun
Common nouns are names of people, things, animals, places, and ideas, etc. The common noun names a general, unspecific class of similar things (chair, box), and not an individual member of a specified group of people or things. For example, the common noun country can refer to any country and the first letter is not capitalized. If it refers to a particular country such as England, it becomes a proper noun beginning with a capital letter.
The following are types of common nouns:
- People – aunt, boy, butcher, carpenter, cousin, father, girl, lady, man, mother, tailor, woman
- Things – bicycle, book, car, computer, dress, hammer, key, pencil, ship, table, vase, wallet
- Animals – armadillo, baboon, bee, caterpillar, cow, dog, eagle, fish, monkey, pig, snake, turkey
- Places – airport, beach, bullring, cemetery, church, country, hospital, library, mall, park, restaurant, zoo
- Quality – beauty, charm, humour, messiness, opportunism, selfishness, innocence, integrity, deceitfulness, opportunism.
- Activity – baking, dreaming, eating, gardening, shopping, fishing, manufacturing, leisure, writing, studying
- Concept – free speech, justice, psychology, sharing, technology, Christianity, perestroika, monarchy
A common noun typically comes after an article (the, a, an) or determiner (this, that, few). As stated, the first letter of a common noun does not begin with a capital letter unless it is the first word in a sentence or part of a title.
- Hours have passed and we haven't heard from him.\
- Two hours have passed and we haven't heard from him.
- (Same common noun: one begins with capital letter while the other does not.)
b) Proper Noun
A proper noun is a name of a specific person (personal name and Mr that precedes the name), place (names of street, city, and country), thing, animal (name given to an animal or a pet’s name), or organization. Proper nouns also refer to the seven days of the week and the twelve months of the year.
The first letter of a proper noun is capitalized wherever it may be in a sentence, such as Roberts or Rome. For example, if we ask, “Which is the tallest tower in the world?”, the word tower is a common noun and there are many towers in the world. It can mean any one of the towers. But if I say, “I’m sure Burj Khalifa is the tallest tower in the world”, I am being specific by naming a particular tower. The Burj Khalifa tower is a proper noun as it is a specific tower.
Proper nouns are names of people, places, organization, etc.
– Ali Baba, Donald Trump, Afonso de Albuquerque
– Downing Street, Museum of Modern Art, Sahara Desert
Things – Financial Times, Eiffel Tower, Big Ben
Organization – United Nations, International Labour Organization, Red Brigades
Animals – King Kong, Lassie, Bugs Bunny
Day and months – Saturday, Tuesday, April, September
Events – World War II (often abbreviated to WWII or WW2), also known as the Second World War, Winter Olympics, final of football’s World Cup.
Singular and plural for proper nouns
We can use the, a, or an for a singular or plural proper noun in special cases.
- This is no longer the London I used to live in.
- I met a Johnny this morning who mistook me as his former classmate.
- There are three Johns in my class.
- The Roberts are coming over for dinner.
One important point to note.
The word mother is a common noun but it becomes a proper noun and is capitalized when it is used as a name for the mother. This only happens in writing.
- “I want to ask my mother whether she is going with us.” “Do you want to go with us, Mother?”
Proper noun and proper adjective
Not all words that are capitalized are proper nouns. The two words in bold in the following examples are not nouns. They are proper adjectives derived from proper nouns.
- He usually smoked his Cuban cigar after dinner.
- She cooked us a delicious Mongolian dish.
c) Concrete Noun
Concrete nouns are those nouns that we can perceive with the five senses; that is, we can see, smell, hear, touch and/or taste. If they are ideas such as beauty, happiness, intelligence and love that we cannot perceive with our five senses, they are abstract nouns and not concrete nouns. Common nouns and proper nouns are concrete nouns. Some examples of concrete nouns are ash, brother, dirt, egg, pepper, and stick. These are person and things that we can experience using our eyes, nose, ears, hand, and/or tongue. There are countable concrete nouns and uncountable concrete nouns, and they can singular nouns or plural nouns.
Countable concrete nouns: teacher (people); valley (place); deer (animal); comb (thing)
Uncountable concrete nouns: water (liquid); steam (gas); copper (substance)
d) Abstract Nouns
An abstract noun is something such as a quality, a feeling, a concept, an idea, an experience, or a state, another of the intangible things that we can only think of, rather than a concrete object. Since it has no physical existence, it cannot be experienced by the five senses – see, hear, touch, smell, and taste – like we can with a concrete noun.
Examples of abstract nouns include beauty, courage, danger, emotion, friendship, imagination, intelligence, and truth.
Abstract nouns, unlike concrete nouns, by themselves are singular and uncountable, but they can be pluralized in use:
beauty / beauties, belief / beliefs, difficulty / difficulties, experience / experiences, friendship/friendships, weakness/weaknesses, etc.
- We couldn’t say her beauty is beyond compare.
- This small car is a little beauty.
- We have never seen such natural beauties of an island.
- The new recruits don't have any previous experience of this type of work.
- It was quite an experience being bitten by a big centipede.
- He wrote a book about his experiences as a prisoner in a maximum-security prison.
- He was encouraged by the friendship she showed him.
- John struck up a friendship with a girl at university.
- It was a period of her life as a masseuse when she made some lifelong friendships.
Abstract nouns can be formed from common nouns (boy/boyhood, child/childhood); from verbs (confide/confidence, know/knowledge); and from adjectives (angry/anger, happy/happiness).
List 13 contains abstract nouns formed from common nouns, verbs and adjectives.
e) Compound noun
A compound noun consists of at least two words, both of which are nouns or one of which must be a noun. The single noun is combined with another part of speech which could be an adverb, an adjective, a verb, or a preposition to form a compound noun. In such a compound noun, it’s not essential that the noun has to be the first word. The second of the two words of a compound noun is usually the main word while the first word acts as its modifier.
There are three forms of compound noun: open, closed, or hyphenated
Open: The two words that made up the compound noun remain separate. Examples: chain saw, electric kettle, invitation card, master key, nightclub singer, woodworking tool
Closed: Usually two or sometimes three words joined together to form a single noun, the compound noun with no space between them. Examples: boyfriend, houseboat, lifeboat, meatball, multimillionaire, workhorse
Hyphenated: The two words that formed the compound noun are linked by a hyphen. Examples: cover-up, drive-in, merry-go-round, mother-in-law, runner-up, well-being
The -ing form: chewing gum, finishing touch, marketing executive, running water, rotating blade, spinning wheel
f) Predicate Noun
A predicate noun is also called a predicate nominative as they mean the same thing. A predicate noun is a noun or a noun phrase that renames or provides more information about the subject of the sentence. It follows a form of the verb “to be” (such as am, is, are) or one of the other intransitive linking verbs (such as appear, feel, seem)
A predicate noun is also known as a complement, a subject complement. Both predicate noun and subject complement follow a linking verb and refer to the subject. The verb is always an intransitive verb, and together with the predicate noun, completes the meaning of the sentence.
How to identify a predicate noun in a sentence
If the verb in the sentence is a linking verb, what follows the verb is a predicate noun or a predicate adjective. The predicate noun that comes after the linking verb can be a person, place, or thing that renames or describes the subject.
Sentences with predicate nouns (in bold)
- James is an astronaut.
- They were firefighters before their retirement.
- We have remained best friends since we met at university.
- She may be our step-mother next month.
- He just became a father.