A noun or noun phrase can function as a subject, direct object, indirect object, complement, appositive, or object of a preposition. In addition, nouns sometimes modify other nouns to form compound nouns. See Examples and Observations, below.
Types of Noun Forms and Functions:
- Abstract Noun and Concrete Noun
- Animate Noun and Inanimate Noun
- Attributive Noun
- Collective Noun
- Common Noun and Proper Noun
- Compound Noun
- Count Noun and Mass Noun
- Denominal Noun
- Deverbal and Verbal Noun
- Plurale Tantum
- Notes on Nouns
- The Basic Parts of Speech
- Denominal Verb
- Exercise in Identifying Nouns
- A List of 100 Irregular Plural Nouns in English
- Noun Clause
- Noun Phrase
- Plural Forms of Nouns
- Practice in Identifying Count Nouns and Mass Nouns
Etymology:From the Greek, "name, noun"
- "Houston, we have a problem."
- "Greed, for lack of a better word, is good."
- "Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream."
(John Steinbeck, Cannery Row, 1945)
- "I type 101 words a minute. But it's in my own language."
- "I recently went to a new doctor and noticed he was located in something called the Professional Building. I felt better right away."
- "You must hear the bird's song without attempting to render it into nouns and verbs."
(Ralph Waldo Emerson)
- "One of the glories of English simplicity is the possibility of using the same word as noun and verb. We speak, for instance, of 'having cut the meat' and of 'a cut of meat.' We not only 'kick a person,' but 'give him a kick.'"
(Edward Sapir, "The Function of an International Auxiliary Language," 1931. Rpt. in Selected Writings of Edward Sapir in Language, Culture and Personality, ed. by David G. Mandelbaum. University of California Press, 1985)
- "[D]efining the term noun is such a problem that many grammar books do not even try to do it. Accepting the idea that the concept of noun is fairly abstract, however, can point us in the right direction, toward a reasonably acceptable definition. From this perspective, nouns are the labels we use to classify the world and our experiences in it."
(James D. Williams, The Teacher's Grammar Book. Lawrence Erlbaum, 1999)
- "In parsing nouns, traditional grammar insisted on noting gender as well as number and case. Modern grammars disregard this criterion, recognizing that gender has no grammatical role in English. They do however find good grammatical reasons for respecting the importance of several other traditional contrasts, especially proper vs common, and abstract vs concrete, and have developed the contrast between mass and count nouns into a major dimension of subclassification."
(David Crystal, Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language. Cambridge University Press, 2003)
Nouns are not restricted to a particular category; that is, a single noun can occupy several of these categories. For example,
three dogs can be [common, concrete & countable](Bernard O'Dwyer, Modern English Structures: Form, Function, and Position. Broadview, 2000)
American government can be [proper, concrete & collective]
Christian faith can be [proper, abstract & countable]
- As for meaning, nouns are traditionally known to be names of persons, places, things, and ideas. But this meaning aspect of nouns remains rather vague--verbs, for example, may also be considered names of ideas--and the formal characteristics are often more reliable. Among the formal characteristics of English nouns are that they typically:
a. may be definite in meaning by use of preceding the (the definite article), as in the book, the guy, the answer;(Grover Hudson, Essential Introductory Linguistics. Blackwell, 2000)
b. may be made possessive by suffixing -'s, as in people's, Jane's, a politicians's;
c. may be made negative by prefixing non-, as in nonbeliever, nonsense, nonunion.
- "Write with nouns and verbs, not with adjectives and adverbs. The adjective hasn't been built that can pull a weak or inaccurate noun out of a tight place."
(William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White, The Elements of Style)
The Lighter Side of Nouns
Dr. Gregory House: Dr. House. I don't think we've met.
Dr. Jaime Conway: Dr. Jamie Conway. I've heard your name.
Dr. Gregory House: Most people have. It's also a noun.
(Hugh Laurie and Rob Benedict, "Living the Dream." House M.D., 2008)