A noun is a word that identifies:

  • a person (woman, boy, doctor, neighbor)
  • a thing (dog, building, tree, country)
  • an idea, quality, or state (truth, danger, birth, happiness).

There are several different types of noun, as follows:

Common noun

A common noun is a noun that refers to people or things in general, e.g. boy, country, bridge, city, birth, day, happiness.

Proper noun

A proper noun is a name that identifies a particular person, place, or thing, e.g. Steven, Africa, Brooklyn Bridge, London, Monday. In written English, proper nouns begin with capital letters.

Concrete noun

A concrete noun is a noun that refers to people and to things that exist physically and can be seen, touched, smelled, heard, or tasted. Examples include dog, building, coffee, tree, rain, beach, tune, Brooklyn Bridge.

Abstract noun

An abstract noun is a noun that refers to ideas, qualities, and conditions — things that cannot be seen or touched and things that have no physical reality. For example: truth, danger, happiness, time, friendship, humor.


A noun may belong to more than one category. For example, happiness is both a common noun and an abstract noun, while Brooklyn Bridge is both a concrete noun and a proper noun.

Collective nouns

Collective nouns refer to groups of people or things, e.g. audience, family, government, team, jury. In American English, most collective nouns are treated as singular, with a singular verb:

The whole family was at the table.


In British English, the preceding sentence would be correct, but it would also be correct to treat the collective noun as a plural, with a plural verb:

The whole family were at the table.


For more information about this, see matching verbs to collective nouns.

Count and noncount nouns

Nouns can be either count or noncount. Count nouns (or countable nouns) are those that refer to something that can be counted. Noncount nouns (or mass nouns) do not typically refer to things that can be counted and so they do not regularly have a plural form.


Find out more about count and noncount nouns.


Back to word classes (or parts of speech).


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