A noun is a word that identifies:
- a person (woman, boy, doctor, neighbour)
- a thing (dog, building, tree, country)
- an idea, quality, or state (truth, danger, birth, happiness).
There are several different types of noun, as follows:
A common noun is a noun that refers to people or things in general, e.g. boy, country, bridge, city, birth, day, happiness.
A proper noun is a name that identifies a particular person, place, or thing, e.g. Steven, Africa, Tower Bridge, London, Monday. In written English, proper nouns begin with capital letters.
A concrete noun is a noun which refers to people and to things that exist physically and can be seen, touched, smelled, heard, or tasted. Examples include dog, building, tree, rain, beach, tune, Tower Bridge.
An abstract noun is a noun which refers to ideas, qualities, and conditions - things that cannot be seen or touched and things which have no physical reality, e.g. truth, danger, happiness, time, friendship, humour.
Collective nouns refer to groups of people or things, e.g. audience, family, government, team, jury. Collective nouns can usually be treated as singular or plural, with either a singular or plural verb. Both the following sentences are grammatically correct:
The whole family was at the table.
The whole family were at the table.
For more information about this, see matching verbs to collective nouns.
A noun may belong to more than one category. For example, happiness is both a common noun and an abstract noun, while Tower Bridge is both a concrete noun and a proper noun.
Countable and uncountable nouns
Nouns can be either countable or uncountable. Countable nouns (or count nouns) are those that refer to something that can be counted. They have both singular and plural forms (e.g., cat/cats; woman/women; country/countries). In the singular, they can be preceded by a or an. Most nouns come into this category.
A smaller number of nouns do not typically refer to things that can be counted and so they do not regularly have a plural form: these are known as uncountable nouns (or mass nouns). Examples include: rain, flour, earth, wine, or wood. Uncountable nouns can’t be preceded by a or an. Many abstract nouns are typically uncountable (e.g., happiness, truth, darkness, humor).
Back to word classes (or parts of speech).
Find out more about countable and uncountable nouns.
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