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 Person, place, thing, idea, or quality
 Proper noun vs. common nouns
o Common nouns
 The vast majority of nouns are
common nouns.
 Common nouns represent
unnamed or unspecific people,
places, things, or ideas.
 They are not capitalized.
 Examples: dog, pen, truck,
tissue, stapler, woman, worker,
student, father, room, hallway,
mountaintop, arena, grade,
honesty, thought, child, house,
grass, notebook, cat, shoe,
selfishness, godliness,
dishonesty, childhood, integrity,
mother, cup, cell phone,
stadium, police, cardiac hospital,
car, joy, happiness, the white
house, apple, Fiji apple,
McIntosh apple, bugles, etc.
o Proper nouns (also known as “proper
 Proper nouns include people’s
names, titles, nicknames, days of
the week, months of the year,
buildings, regional places, brands,
planets, etc.
 They generally are capitalized.
 Examples: John, Debra Sue,
Michael Jordan, Tiny, Ford Taurus,
American Airlines Center,
Methodists, First Methodist Church
of Wylie, the Rocky Mountains, Mt.
Everest, Huckleberry Finn, Of Mice
and Men, “Pants on the Ground,”
February, Pluto, the White House,
Mars, Cadillac DeVille, Angel Fire,
God, Allah, Buddah, Ukraine, Nissan
Altima, Dr. Smith, U.S. Navy,
Tuesday, Christmas, Easter,
Valentine’s Day, Ramadan, George
Bush, W., Father’s Day, English,
Gatorade, the Grand Canyon,
McDonald’s, JC Pennys, Wal-Mart,
Melissa, M’Lissa, Malissa, Melisa,
Apple, Barack Obama, the
Caribbeans, the Pacific Ocean, the
Pacific, Jesus Christ, Von Qui Qui,
Shanana, The Martin Lawrence
Show, Sweetness, New Year’s,
Prince Edward Island, Wall Street
Journal, etc.
 Some words are capitalized
because they are based on
proper nouns. Most often, this
happens with adjectives.
 Methodist church, German
shepherd, Hershey bar,
American pit bull, Stafford pit
bull, English professor,
Quaker oatmeal,
 Please note: the nouns these
adjectives are modifying are
not capitalized because they
are common nouns. “English
Professor” or “American
History” would be wrong.
 Some people are tempted to
capitalize words they perceive as
important, but it is generally a
mistake. So…. even though
“algebra” is an important school
subject or the “police” are brave
public servants, we do not
capitalize them, for they are not
proper nouns.
 Possible exception: if a
common noun part of the title
(of a book, of a course, of an
event, etc.), it gets
capitalized. For example,
“statistics” isn’t normally
capitalized, but if you are
taking “Statistics 2301,” it
would be because that is the
name of the course, and, as
such, it is treated as a proper
noun. Similarly, a “spring
dance” would not be
capitalized, but if the event
were named (i.e., Spring
Fling), the words would be
 Common Suffixes identifying words as a
noun (not an exhaustive list)
o -ist(s), -er, -or, -ism, -ness, -ment, -tion.
–ation, -ion, -hood, -ence, -or, -ress, -ty
 EXAMPLES: government, writer,
singer, actor, actress, scientist,
sweetness, nation, gradation,
intelligence, patience, breathing,
worker, thinking, happiness, fidelity,
neighborhood, sentence, employer,
action, patriotism, retirement, artist,
artists, university, etc.
 Not every word that has these word
ending are nouns, so understand
this information as a common
pattern rather than an absolute rule.
You still have to see a word used in
a sentence and compare it against
the basic definition of a noun:
person, place, thing, quality, or idea.
 Example: Despite being
interrogated for hours, he would
not confess to the crime.
“Confess” in this sentence is a
verb, not a noun. It describes an
action, not a person, place, or
 As some of the earlier examples
indicate, nouns are often created
from adjectives, verbs, or other parts
of speech. For example, “difficult” is
an adjective, but adding the suffix
“ty” creates the nouns “difficulty,” or
adding “ness” to the adjective “bitter”
creates the noun “bitterness.” The
verb “to dance” becomes “dancer” in
the noun form. Sometimes nouns
are even created from other nouns
as when “art” becomes “artist.”
 Singular and plural
o The most common plural endings are –s
and –es.
 add –s (the most common)
 fighters, dogs, football players,
cars, bleachers, houses,
environmentalists, scientists,
groups, cookies, bananas, guns,
teachers, drugs, trucks, cowboys
 add –es (often for nouns that already
end in “s,” “ch”, and “x”)
 beaches, benches, foxes,
potatoes, glasses, basses, boxes,
waitresses, dishes, octopuses
o There are numerous exceptions, however
 drop the y and add –ies for most
nouns that end in -y
 baby/babies, gallery/galleries,
penny/pennies, city/cities,
o (there are notable exceptions)
 the rule does not apply to
proper names:
 other exceptions involve
words that have a vowel
preceding the ending -y:
key/keys, cowboy/cowboys
 odd patterns
o child/children, goose/geese,
die/dice, ox/oxen,
woman/women, mouse/mice,
person/people, datum/data
 some nouns stay the same
o fish/fish, sheep/sheep,
shrimp/shrimp, moose/moose,
money/money (though
“monies” is used within the
financial world), water/water
(though “waters” is often by
environmentalists and others
used to describe oceans and
o Most native speakers of English get
plurals correct instinctively, but
dictionaries will confirm how to convert a
singular noun to a plural one. Often it
will show the information in the way that
I’ve done in examples, with a hyphen
and the ending letters of the plural
version of the word (e.g., –ies), or if it’s
a very unusual plural it might write out
the plural form completely (e.g., louse
pl. lice). Please note that, as a way to
save space and ink, many dictionaries
will not give the information for nouns
following the –s pattern. On the other
hand, if a word has two or three
variations on how the plural may be
formed, a dictionary will generally show
you all of them (e.g., octopuses/octopi
or genitals/genitalia)
o You cannot create a plural noun with an
 Incorrect: three CD’s, MP3’s,
1980’s, ‘60’s, 10’s and 20’s, ten’s
and twenty’s, orange’s, DVD’s
 Correct: three CDs, MP3s,1980s,
1960s, ‘60s,10s and 20s, tens and
twenties, oranges, DVDs
 I grew up in the 1980s. (plural
 I like 1980’s music. (adjective)
 I own thousands of DVDs.
 The DVD’s case is missing.
 Countable vs. Non-countable nouns
o countable nouns can actually be
quantified (fairly easily).
 “flowers,” “towels,” and “fingers,”
“cats,” “shoes,” “books,” “socks”
“nouns,” “herds,” “rocks,” “bikes”
 a dozen flowers, several towels, five
fingers, more shoes, four cats, a
shelf full of books
non-countable nouns are not readily
“countable” or they tend to be measured
by weight, volume, dimensions, or
mass. (FYI: Some grammar books and
teachers, refer to non-countable nouns
as “mass” nouns.)
 Examples: “hair” (too many strands
to count), “music” (you’d never say
“two musics), “water” (measured by
cups, gallons, and so forth), etc.
 Other examples: “spaghetti,”
“sugar,” “luggage,” “underwear,”
“information,” “furniture,” “paper,”
“grass,” “air,” “land,” “population,”
“fruit,” “snow,” “glass.”*
o * as in a pane of glass, not a
drinking vessel
 A lot of non-countable nouns (not all)
can be re-phrased to be countable.
 Examples: peanut butter/jars of
peanut butter, hair/strand of hair,
sand/grain of sand, music/piece of
music, underwear/pairs of
underwear, paper/sheets of paper,
grass/blades of grass, glass/pane
of glass/piece of glass/shard of
glass, air/breaths of air, rain/drops
of rain/sheets of rain/inches of
rain, etc.
 Frequently non-countable nouns are
abstract nouns: health, chemistry,
happiness, swimming, sadness,
madness, anger, depression, advice,
physics, fear, courage, education,
science, etc.
 One difficult issue with non-countable
nouns regards what adjective to use
with the nouns to indicate a comparative
o I’d like more water, not I’d like
greater water.
o There were fewer people here
today than yesterday, not
“There were less people….
o Ten items or fewer (even
though the grocery signs say
“ten items or less”)
o INCORRECT: We want to
increase the amount of
contributors as well as the
amount of the donations.
 To see more examples and a more
complete discussion of countable and
non-countable nouns, I encourage you
to consult a grammar handbook or a
reputable grammar webpage. Below are
some links to the Purdue University
Online Writing Lab, which I recommend
as a good source to supplement your
 Collective nouns
o Collect nouns refer to groups consisting
of more than one individual or entity
 Examples include committee, herd,
school (of fish, of thought, of painters),
army, faculty, flock of birds, battalion,
platoon, team, group, band, class, tribe,
assembly, congregation, orchestra,
fleet, council, club, gang, family, pack,
organization, flock of ducks, etc.
o Collective nouns can be either singular or
plural, depending on context. In writing,
this double status often causes
agreement errors. How do you tell if a
collective noun is singular or plural? What
verbs and pronouns do you use with the
collective noun?
 If the members of the group are acting
together as a unit, the noun is singular,
and therefore, you would use singular
verbs and pronouns to match it.
 Every season, the team votes for
its captain.
 Every season, the team votes for
their captain. (error)
 The jury rendered its verdict of
“guilty” in the Haas embezzlement
 If the members of the group are acting
as separate individuals, the noun is
plural, and therefore would be
accompanied by plural verbs and plural
 After the game, the team
showered and changed into their
street clothes.
 As a legal tactic and with an
appeal in mind, the defense
attorney asked that the jury be
polled for their votes.
o Student sentences:
The army changed its defense plans. (sing)
The gang is like my family. (sing)
The temple decided to close its doors due to
a terroristic threat. (sing)
The gang beat up someone in my family.
1. The football team paraded around the field
after winning its first Super Bowl.
2. The band went on a field trip with its director.
3. The Wolf Battalion had its TFI inspection.
4. The team played their positions perfectly.
5. The band couldn’t decide what to play, so the
lead guitarist flipped a coin to decide which of
its songs to open with.
6. Last season, the team voted against its
coaches. (singular or plural?)
7. At the end of the period, the class had their
lunches. (singular or plural?)
8. The herd of buffalo was grazing on the green
grass. (singular or plural?)
9. The pack of wolves made its way down the
ravine toward the lonely deer that was spotted
far off. (singular or plural?)
10. The basketball team played hard last night,
which resulted in its twelfth win of the young
season. (singular or plural?)
11. The committee voted by way of secret ballot.
(singular or plural?)
12. Our basketball team won its first state
championship in school history. (singular or
13. The teacher asked the group of students to
study for their first exams. (singular or
14. The band gave its best performance at the
ballpark. (singular or plural?)
15. After three straight losses, the basketball
team went out of its way to practice harder
with its coach. (singular or plural?)
 How to identify nouns when you see them
o Many times (though not all the time),
nouns are preceded by articles (a book,
an owl, the mirror), various types of
adjectives (green beans, my brother,
several students), or even both (a purple
purse, the noisy child)
o Sometimes, the adjectives used in front
of nouns look a lot like nouns
themselves, but if a word’s main
function is to describe the word that
follows it, it is an adjective (even if, in
another sentence, the same word could
be used as a noun).
o I ordered a slice noun of lemon adj cake
noun at the deli adj counter noun.
o I ordered lemon noun with my tea at the
deli noun.
 In the examples below, the noun is in
turquoise. Notice how often they are
preceded by articles and adjectives
(highlighted in grey). In a few cases, you
might notice that a noun ends with one of
the suffixes we discussed earlier, which
often help you to identify a noun as a noun.
And of course, don’t forget the basic noun
test: is the word being used to represent a
person, place, thing, quality, or idea.
o I went to the college for admission, but
there was a long line, so I decided to
register online.
o On my way to the school, I saw a pink,
cute-looking car.
o The last time that my cousin called she
said that she was moving out of Texas.
o Yesterday, I had a big piece of
cheesecake after I ate my dinner.
o The event was sponsored by an older
man who broke his arm at the stadium.
o I was asked about the book, and I said it
was hers.
o Jenna is the mom, and Ashley is the
o John went to the mall with his friend
Michael to buy some costumes for the
o While I was on my lunch break, I saw
Jack walking his dog at Bob Woodruff
o The tigers at the zoo like eating fish,
pork, or beef in a secluded area.
o Laura was sent to the hospital for a
chest x-ray after her doctor’s office visit.
 Concrete vs. abstract
o Concrete nouns are physical things or
 Examples: paper, clock, eyebrows,
rose, gum, head, watch, dog, rock
o Abstract nouns represent intangible
things and concepts.
 Examples: freedom, love, intensity,
difficulty, religion, faith, fate,
memory, destiny, distance, etc.
o Some nouns seem capable of being
both concrete and abstract at the same
 Examples: fake, performance,
assignment, etc.
o In a lot of ways, whether a noun is
abstract or concrete isn’t all that
importance, but a lot of beginning
grammar students don’t recognize
abstract nouns as nouns. They tend to
focus on “person, place, or thing” and
overlook “quality or idea,” and most
abstract nouns fall into the latter
 A nouns is a part of speech, but parts of
speech play certain roles, or functions,
within sentences. Some functions are
played on by certain parts of speech, and,
vice versa, some parts of speech only
function certain ways. Nouns, however, are
pretty versatile. They appear all over
sentences, playing various roles and
occupying certain functions. Nouns most
often serve in the following capacities:
subject, direct object, indirect object, object
of the preposition, subject complement, etc.
o Before looking at examples, please
note, we will focus on some of these
concepts more thoroughly later, but this
discussion previews those future
o A prepositional phrase is a group of
words that begins with a preposition and
ends with the object of the preposition.
They are frequently included in
sentences as a way to add description
and information to whatever we are
writing. The object of the preposition is
always either a noun or a pronoun
(down the street, to the woman, under
the covers at the end of the bed).
o Nouns often serve as the subject of a
 The subject is the thing/person doing
whatever the verb says.
 The girl sang.
 Joan sang.
o Nouns can serve as a direct object of an
action verb or as the subject
complement of a linking verb.
 Jason hit a homer. (A direct object
is said to receive the action of the
verb and answers the question, what
did Jason hit?) (“Jason,” by the way,
is a proper noun serving as the
subject of the sentence.)
 He is an accountant. (A subject
complement—in this case a
predicate noun—is said to rename
the subject, and answer the
question, what is he? Subject
complements are only used with
linking verbs.)
o Nouns can serve as indirect object of an
action verb.
 I baked Mary a cake. (An indirect
object indicates the person/thing that
received the direct object, usually
asking the question for whom or to
whom? Here the direct object--a
cake--was baked for Mary.
o Example sentences:
 The woman from Minnesota sang
the national anthem during the
opening ceremony of the Olympics.
Sarah was the winner of several
talent shows and was chosen to
perform tonight after a long audition
 The performance was a success,
and the crowd cheered and
applauded for her.
 After dealing with a long evening the
previous night, she chose to gargle
with lemon juice and water before
she performed again.
 Upset that he lost the tennis match
(direct object), John (subject) threw
his racquet (direct object) across the
net (object of the preposition), and
when his opponent (subject) came
over to the sidelines (object of the
preposition) to shake his hand
(direct object), he spit in the man’s
face (object of the preposition).
 Later in the week (object of the
preposition), John (subject) was
fined a substantial amount (direct
object) of money (object of the
preposition) by the World Tennis
Federation (object of the
preposition), which said its
organization (subject) would not
tolerate such bad sportsmanship
(direct object).
o After hearing on the radio (object of the
preposition) that there was a tornado
watch (subject), we all sought shelter
(direct object).
o The penguin (subject) jumped into the
ocean (object of the preposition) from
the glacier (object of the preposition) in
search of food (object of the preposition)
for his hungry family (object of the
o During the spring season (object of the
preposition) in Ohio (object of the
preposition), we used to get tornado
watches (direct object) almost every
week (part of adverb an phrase).
o The tornado (subject) from Houston
(object of preposition) damaged the mall
(direct object) of our town (object of the
o Today, I got out of my work (object of
the preposition) around six o’clock
(object of the preposition), got in my car
(object of preposition), and started to
drive when, suddenly, I started to hear a
very strong noise (direct object).
 I bought my daughter (indirect
object) a plastic elephant (direct
object) at the zoo’s gift shop (object
of the preposition).
 The tiger (subject) jumped over the
fence (object of preposition), walked
freely among the people (object of
the preposition) in the zoo (object of
the preposition), and created a panic
(direct object).
 The zookeeper (subject) was sent to
the hospital (object of the
preposition) after he was mauled by
one of the tigers (object of the
preposition) during the routine
feeding time (object of the
 The lions (subject) at the zoo (object
of the preposition) were chasing
each other around their cage (object
of the preposition) as we watched
from the picnic table (object of the
preposition) where we were resting.
 The zoo (subject) is near the
amusement park (object of the
preposition), and the park (subject)
is beside the bookstore (object of the
 Gerunds are “verbals,” which are words that
are based on verbs. Gerund function as
nouns (whereas other verbals function as
o Gerunds end in –ing
 “skiing,” “writing,” “whistling,”
“cooking,” “swimming,” and
o Please that gerunds can be a little tricky
because at first glance, the –ing suffix
makes them look like regular verbs.
Just remember that the basic rule that a
noun is a person, place, thing, quality or
idea is still applicable with gerunds. In I
enjoy hiking, “hiking” is a thing, an
activity, a noun. In When I was hiking, I
saw a squirrel, “hiking” is an action, a
past tense verb. Sometimes, -ing words
can function as adjectives (as in
camping gear), so again, remember, not
every –ing word is a gerund.
 Examples that involve a lot of –ing
words (only some of which are
 I enjoy cooking (gerund) so
much, I’m considering (verb, am
considering) enrolling in culinary
 In my sewing (adjective) class,
the teacher was noticing (verb)
the embroidering (gerund) I put
on the dress I was making
(verb), and she complimented
me on my skills.
 The stitching (gerund) on my
hiking (adjective) boots is
unraveling (verb), so I’m thinking
(verb, am thinking) about
returning (gerund) them to the
camping (adjective) store.
o There are a few special grammar rules
about gerunds that you can read about
later, but the most violated one is that
they should be used with possessive
adjectives. Many inexperienced writers
incorrectly use objective case pronouns
or nouns instead of the required
possessive form.
 Hence, it would be My husband’s
snoring keeps me up at night
(not My husband snoring keeps
me up at night).
 My typing leaves a lot to be
 Jerry’s excessive revving of his
motorcycle engine has
contributed to the bike’s stalling
at nearly every intersection (not
Jerry excessively revving his
motorcycle engine has
contributed to the bike stalling at
nearly every intersection).