What do dogs, a lake, sunglasses, Mount Kilimanjaro and a banana all have in common?
They’re all examples of nouns.
If you didn’t recognize these words as nouns right away, don’t worry. In this post, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about English nouns.
Plus, we’re going to take a closer look at the eight types of English nouns.
Soon, you’ll see nouns everywhere, like in the park or at the store or in your car. (Yes, park, store and car are all nouns!)
What Is an English Noun?
Before we go any further, let’s answer an important question. What’s a noun?
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a noun is “a word that refers to a person, place, thing, event, substance or quality.”
For an even simpler definition, watch this Noun Jam video. In this catchy song, you’ll learn that a noun is simply, a person, place, thing or idea. The Cambridge Dictionary definition is almost the same as the video’s definition, but it groups “event, substance or quality” into the “idea” category, which is a little easier to remember.
And for an extra learning boost, watch the Noun Jam video on FluentU.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Plus, FluentU has plenty of other opportunities to study noun types through interactive subtitles, full transcripts, video-enhanced flashcards and fill-in-the-blank quizzes.
Now that we have a basic definition of nouns, how do you use them in a sentence?
A Few Things to Remember About English Nouns
English Nouns as Subjects and Objects
Nouns can either be the subject or object of the sentence. The subject of a sentence is the noun that’s doing the verb. Let’s look at an example:
Samantha eats ice cream.
In this sentence, eats is the action verb and Samantha is the noun that’s doing the action of eating. So, Samantha is the subject in this sentence.
The direct object of a sentence is the word that the verb acts on or affects. Let’s look at the same example:
Samantha eats ice cream.
Ice cream is the noun that’s being affected by the verb eats so it’s the direct object in this sentence.
Most English nouns are gender-neutral. This is very different from Spanish or French nouns, which are spelled differently and require the correct article-noun agreement for each gender.
There are a few cases where English nouns are gendered, such as using waiter for a male and waitress for a female. But, for the most part, English nouns aren’t attached to a specific gender and the article (the, a or an) doesn’t change depending on gender.
Keep in mind, some pronouns are gendered. Pronouns can be used in place of a noun so you don’t have to repeat the same noun over and over. Pronouns like he and she refer to specific genders. They or them can be used as gender-neutral pronouns in English.
When you want to talk about a group of nouns, you need to make the noun plural. Not all languages change the spelling of a word to make it plural, so this can be a confusing concept. Luckily, there are a few simple rules to follow when forming plural English nouns, like when to add -s, -es or when you actually don’t have the change the word.
The most basic way to form plural nouns is to add -s at the end of the word. Many plural nouns like cars, apples and books are formed this way.
Why Learn the Types of English Nouns?
You may be wondering, “do I really need to know the different types of nouns?”
Sure, it might be a bit overwhelming, but once you learn the different categories, using nouns will be a breeze.
- Your English sentences would have no meaning without nouns. Simply put, without nouns you wouldn’t be able to communicate in English. You need nouns to express who, what and where you’re talking about.
- Understanding nouns is an important step in your fluency journey. Learning about and understanding the different types of nouns and how to use them will help you expand your English language knowledge.
- Grow your English vocabulary. There are a lot of nouns in the English language. As you start to learn about the different types of nouns, you’ll be able to add more English words to your vocabulary. Consider keeping a list of the new English words you learn as you study the different noun categories.
The 8 Types of English Nouns You Need to Know, with Lots of Examples
Earlier, we defined nouns as a person, place, thing or idea. This is a general definition that helps us understand what a noun is.
To break this down further, let’s look at the eight specific types of nouns. Once you understand these categories, it’ll be much easier to identify and use nouns in English!
You’ll quickly notice that many nouns fall under more than one category. For example, love is a common, uncountable and abstract noun while notebook is common, concrete, compound and countable!
Knowing these noun types will help you talk about them. For example, since love is an uncountable noun but notebook is countable, you can’t say “I have five loves,” but you could say “I have five notebooks.”
A common noun is a generic person, place or thing. You don’t have to capitalize a common noun unless it falls at the beginning of a sentence.
Some common nouns include car, woman and month.
Let’s look at how to use a common noun in a sentence:
The man is on the phone.
This movie is scary.
It’s cold in the house.
My cat likes to sleep on the rug.
Do you think the llama enjoys eating grass?
I want to buy that pink umbrella for the beach.
Pistachio ice cream isn’t my favorite.
The market has plenty of watermelons, limes, oranges and pears.
Are you up for a challenging hike to the top of the mountain?
The basketball player is known for never missing a shot.
A proper noun is the specific name given to a person, place or thing. You should always capitalize a proper noun even if it’s in the middle of a sentence.
Proper nouns are more descriptive than common nouns. A few examples include Honda, Michelle Obama and August. These are proper noun alternatives to the common noun examples of car, woman and month we used earlier.
Let’s look at how to use a proper noun in a sentence:
Albert lives in England.
Maria planted roses in the Sunshine Community Garden.
“Jurassic Park” is my favorite movie.
Does it always snow in January?
Helen goes to Starbucks every morning before work.
I can’t wait to take Fido to the dog park on Saturday.
The Eiffel Tower was completed in 1889.
George Washington was the first president of America.
My parents took a Princess cruise to Alaska.
Should we meet at Caroline’s Waffle Palooza for brunch on Sunday?
A concrete noun is something you can see, touch, taste, hear or smell.
Some concrete nouns include music, bread and a backpack.
Let’s look at how to use a concrete noun in a sentence:
Lady Gaga is a fantastic singer.
What’s your favorite book?
My mom just baked some delicious chocolate chip cookies.
I always drink some milk before getting ready for bed.
Don’t forget to bring your tent to the camp.
History is Zeke’s favorite school subject.
Henry the hamster runs five miles a day on his wheel.
Australia is a beautiful country.
The Statue of Liberty is in New York City.
Frida Kahlo lived in a bright blue house in Mexico.
An abstract noun is something you can’t see, touch, taste, hear or smell.
Abstract nouns are the opposite of concrete nouns. They’re qualities, concepts and emotions.
Some abstract nouns include love, money and religion.
Let’s look at how to use an abstract noun in a sentence:
Amber is full of joy today.
Parents have a lot of patience.
Flying first-class is a luxury.
Do you get a thrill from riding a roller coaster?
Have confidence in yourself.
My dream is to go on a safari and see a giraffe.
Rumor has it that Willy Wonka is quitting his job at the chocolate factory.
Curling up with a cup of tea and a blanket gives me much comfort.
Going on a bike ride makes me happy.
Are you in a lot of pain after burning your hand on the stove?
A collective noun refers to a group of multiple things.
Some collective nouns are crowd, batch and flock.
Let’s look at how to use a collective noun in a sentence:
A school of fish just swam by.
What outfit should I wear to the dance?
Are you joining the group for the soccer game?
I finally added new stamps to my collection.
The cat gave birth to a litter of kittens.
Try not to get stung by that swarm of bees.
Cynthia is the best singer in the church choir.
Prince Philip is next in line for the throne.
My bowling team is going to Pizza Hut tonight after practice.
The army of ants is really enjoying the crumbs at this picnic.
Compound nouns are formed from two or more words.
Some compound nouns are seafood, boyfriend and airline.
Let’s look at how to use a compound noun in a sentence:
I love watching the sunrise on the beach.
I think you need new eyeglasses.
Tonight’s special is eggplant lasagna.
She sells seashells by the seashore.
Is that scarecrow haunted?
Bacon and eggs are a delicious breakfast.
Babe Ruth was a great baseball player.
There’s nothing like the great outdoors.
Did you bring your notebook to class today?
The spy’s plan was foolproof.
Countable nouns can be counted and can have a singular or plural form.
Some countable nouns are apples, key and child.
Let’s look at how to use a countable noun in a sentence:
Mark and Hannah have three children.
I only have two slices of pizza left.
This cupcake is very sweet.
We have many books at home.
Where is the last puzzle piece?
Patrick had a great time at the wedding.
Do you play your violin often?
Make sure to eat a banana before you leave.
Would an iguana make a good pet?
This Hawaiian resort only has three rooms facing the ocean.
Uncountable nouns can’t be counted and typically don’t have a plural form.
Most abstract nouns are also uncountable nouns.
Some uncountable nouns are coffee, truth and water.
Let’s look at how to use an uncountable noun in a sentence:
Tea is a popular drink.
Try to be on your best behavior.
My travels took me to Japan and Antarctica.
Don’t ask for advice from a dog.
The field is full of grass.
The air is cold today.
Italy is known for its delicious pasta.
I hope you didn’t get too wet in the rain.
Nature is full of trees and wild animals.
Money can’t buy you happiness.
There are a lot of rules to learn about nouns, so be patient with yourself during the learning process. Just keep practicing and soon you will be able to use many different nouns to talk about all the people, places, things and ideas in your life.
Stephanie Brown is a New York City-based freelance writer. You can find her at The Adventuring Millennial.
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