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Nouns

Downloadable version: Nouns

Overview: A noun is a person, place, or thing, and often functions as the subject or object of a sentence. When a noun acts as the subject, it performs the action in the sentence. When a noun acts as the object, it receives the action in the sentence. Nouns have specific classifications, and they can be either singular or plural.

Proper nouns name specific people, places, or things, and are usually capitalized. Proper nouns do not require an article (a, an or the).

Examples: Sally always drank a lot of coffee with breakfast.

Texas has large deserts, but it also has many beautiful beaches.

 

Common nouns name non-specific people, places, or things, usually are not capitalized, and often require an article (a, an, or the).

Examples: The girl always drank a lot of coffee with breakfast.

The state has large deserts, but it also has many beautiful beaches.

 

Concrete nouns name things that can be tasted, touched, seen, heard, or smelled.

Examples: The girl always drank a lot of coffee with breakfast.

Texas has large deserts, but it also has many beautiful beaches.

 

Abstract nouns name concepts, beliefs, ideas, or qualities.

Examples: Her faith helps her get through difficult periods in her life.

Beauty is difficult to define.

 

Count nouns are nouns that can be counted. They can be made plural by adding an “s” or “es” to the end.

Examples: In the winter the water is too cold for swimmers.

All televisions run on electricity.

 

Non-count Nouns are nouns that cannot be counted. Non-count nouns cannot be made plural by adding an –s to the end of the word, and only have a singular form. Some non-count nouns are also abstract.

Examples: In the winter the water is too cold for swimmers.

All televisions run on electricity.

 

Some nouns may be count OR non-count depending on the meaning in context.

  • Water as a count noun: “Three waters please,” Mark said to the server.

Water as a non-count noun: In the winter the water is too cold for swimmers.

  • Cheese as a count noun: Americans often think that French cheeses are too “stinky.”

Cheese as a non-count noun: Everything is better with cheese.

 

Collective Nouns name a group of something. In American English, this usually this means that many individuals are treated as a singular group.

Examples: The team practices every day.

My family is coming to visit me.

 

Practice: Understanding the difference between the types of nouns will also help you understand other elements of sentence structure, like when to use articles (a, an, the). Look at your own writing and try circling all the nouns in one paragraph. Are all the proper nouns capitalized? Can you find examples of count and non-count nouns? Can you find examples of abstract and concrete nouns?

 


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This handout is part of a library of instructional materials used in California State University, Long Beach’s writing center, the Writer’s Resource Lab. Educators and students are welcome to distribute copies as long as they do so with attribution to all organizations and authors. Commercial distribution is prohibited.
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