What Are Nouns?

Nouns are most often the names of people, places or things. Personal names (e.g. John and Alice) and place-names (e.g. Mumbai and Chennai) are called proper nouns; they are usually used without articles.

Nouns can be divided into several subclasses:

Proper noun (e.g. India, Italy, Alice)
Common noun (e.g. boy, girl, child, man, tree)
Collective noun (e.g. class, jury, army, team)
Abstract noun (e.g. truth, beauty, honesty, sleep)

Proper noun

A noun denoting a particular person, place or thing is called a proper noun. Proper nouns are normally written with initial capital letters, and most proper nouns do not take an article. Examples: Alice, India, John, Sydney, Mt Everest.

  • Jawaharlal Nehru was the first Prime Minister of independent India.
  • John is a clever boy.
  • Alice is a journalist.

Note that proper nouns denoting historical periods and events, as well as certain others, often do take the articles.

Examples: The Stone Age, The French Revolution, The United States, The United Nations Organization

Collective noun

A noun which denotes a collection of individual persons or objects is called a collective noun.

Examples are: crowd, mob, team, flock, herd, army, fleet, jury, nation, family, committee, government etc.

In British English, a collective noun may be treated either as singular (if the whole group is being thought of as a unit) or as plural (if the group is being regarded as a collection of individuals).

  • The jury has announced its verdict. (The jury is regarded as a unit.)
  • The jury are divided on this issue. (The jury is regarded as a group of individuals.)

In American English, a collective noun is always treated as singular, and Americans say The jury is divided on this issue.

Common noun

common noun refers to a class of things, such as dog, pencil, boy, tree or book. It does not refer to a particular person or thing.

  • Solomon was a wise king.
  • Alice is a clever girl.
  • John is a boy.

In the above examples, Solomon, Alice and John refer to particular persons. These are called proper nouns. While king, boy and girl refer to the class or kind to which these proper nouns belong. These are called common nouns.

Common nouns include what are called collective nouns and abstract nouns.

Abstract noun

An abstract noun denotes something which is not physical and cannot be touched, such as pleasure, happiness, beauty, kindness, honesty, anger and idea. Sometimes the term is extended to include nouns denoting events and actions, such as arrival and explosion.

An abstract noun can be countable or uncountable. Uncountable abstract nouns are followed by singular verbs. We do not use articles or numbers before them.

  • Death (uncountable) keeps no calendar.
  • Several deaths (countable) have been reported from the city.
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Manjusha Nambiar

Hi, I am Manjusha. This is my blog where I give English grammar lessons and worksheets.

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