A noun is a word that denotes a person, place, or thing, e.g. Tom, apple, laughter, Phoenix.
Example Sentence 1 - Tom went around the world, from California to Cairo, by ship.
All underlined words are nouns.
• Tom = Name of the person
• world = place
• California = Name of the place
• Cairo = Name of the place
• ship = thing
Fig: Types of nouns.
Concrete & Abstract Nouns
Nouns can be either concrete or abstract, depending upon what type of entity they denote.
Concrete Nouns denote items that one can identify, using any of the 5 senses – sight, touch, taste, smell, & sound. E.g. all nouns in the example sentence 1 (Tom went…ship.) are concrete nouns.
Abstract Nouns denote items that cannot be detected by the 5 senses. E.g. love, truth, pain, skill.
Proper & Common Nouns:
Nouns can be either proper or common, depending upon whether they express specific names or generic entities.
Proper Nouns name specific persons, places, or things. They are capitalized. In the example sentence 1, the nouns ‘Tom’, ‘California’, and ‘Cairo’ are all proper nouns since each of these nouns is the name of a person or a place.
Common Nouns are general nouns. In the above sentence, the nouns ‘world’ and ‘ship’ are common nouns.
Singular and Plural Nouns:
Nouns have a number associated with them. Since they express entities, they can either express a single entity or a plural entity. Thus, nouns can be singular or plural.
Singular means one. A noun in its native form is singular: e.g. – ship.
Plural means more than one.
Typically, most nouns can be made plural by adding –s, –es or –ies after the noun. E.g.
• ship is singular; ships is plural.
• injury is singular; injuries is plural.
Certain other nouns have distinct plural forms. E.g.
• man is singular; men is plural.
• child is singular; children is plural.
• mouse is singular, mice is plural.
Countable and UnCountable Nouns:
Classification of nouns as countable and uncountable nouns is important because it governs the use of certain adjectives with these nouns, as explained below.
What is a countable noun?
A countable noun is a word that can be counted and has a plural form. For example:
The word ‘onion’ is a countable noun because:
• It can be counted as one onion, two onions, three onions, etc.
• It has a plural form (onions).
The word ‘reason’ is a countable noun because:
• It can be counted as one reason, two reasons, three reasons, etc.
• It has a plural form (reasons).
By the same reasoning as above, words such as ‘thing’, ‘job’, ‘coin’, ‘story’, etc. are countable nouns.
What is an uncountable noun?
An uncountable noun is a word that cannot be counted and that *usually does not have a plural form. For example:
The word ‘garlic’ is an uncountable noun because:
• It cannot be counted as one garlic, two garlics, three garlics, etc.
• It does not have a plural form (garlics).
The word ‘knowledge’ is an uncountable noun because:
• It cannot be counted as one knowledge, two knowledges, three knowledges, etc.
• It does not have a plural form (knowledges).
By the same reasoning as above, words such as ‘stuff’, ‘furniture’, *‘money’, ‘rice’, ‘anger’ etc. are uncountable nouns.
*The noun ‘money’, which is usually an un-countable noun, has a plural form ‘moneys’, which is used in a very different context and not in the context of ‘one moneys’, ‘two moneys’, etc.
How can I determine whether a noun is countable or uncountable?
A noun is countable noun if:
• It can be counted as 1 (noun), 2 (nouns), 3 (nouns)
• It has a plural form.
A noun is uncountable noun if
• It cannot be counted as 1 (noun), 2 (nouns), 3 (nouns)
• It does not have a plural form.
What adjectives can be used with countable and uncountable nouns?
Quantity adjectives such as ‘few’, ‘many’, etc. can only be used with countable nouns. For example, you can say ‘few songs’ because here ‘songs’ is a countable noun, but you can’t say ‘few music’ because ‘music’ is an uncountable noun. Similarly, you can say ‘many songs’; but you can’t say ‘many music’.
Quantity adjectives such as ‘less’, ‘amount’, etc. can only be used with uncountable nouns. For example, you can say ‘less music’ because here ‘music’ is an uncountable noun, but you can’t say ‘less songs’ because songs is a countable noun, and ‘less’ cannot be used with countable nouns. Similarly the expression ‘amount of music’ is correct, while the expression ‘amount of songs’ is incorrect idiomatic usage.