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Nouns, pronouns, and
the simple noun phrase:
Longman Student Grammar of
Spoken and Written English
Biber; Conrad; Leech
(2009, p.55-101)
Grammar bite A
The major types of nouns can be categorized in two
ways: countable v. uncountable nouns, and common
v. proper nouns
Countable nouns have singular and plural number;
uncountable nouns do not.
Common nouns refer to classes, while proper nouns
refer to individuals.
Some nouns can switch between countable and
uncountable (chicken(s), and some can switch between
common and proper (two Cadillacs).
There are also special types of package nouns:
collective nouns (crowd), unit nouns (loaf), quantifying
nouns (ounce of gold) and species nouns (make of machine).
These special nouns are often followed by of
Grammar bite B
The most common determiners are the definite and indefinite
articles (the and a/an)
There is also a zero article, used with plural or uncountable nouns
for indefinite meaning
All three articles can be used to express generic meaning (referring
to a class as a whole)
Predeterminers precede determiners (all the) in a noun phrase;
postdeterminers follow determiners (the other)
Possessive and demonstrative determiners are definite in meaning
(like the) whereas quantifying determiners are indefinite in meaning
(like a/an)
Numerals (cardinal and ordinal numbers) are grammatically like a
class of determiners.
Quantifying determiners and quantifying pronouns usually have the
same form (e.g. all, few). We call both of them quantifiers.
Semi-determiners, such as (the) same and another, have
characteristics of both determiners and adjectives.
Grammar bite C
Number is the term for the contrast between singular
and plural in nouns
In addition to regular plurals with –s, English has a
few classes of nouns with an irregular plural
The genitive case in nouns is used to express
possession and other meanings
Genitives can have the role of either a determiner
(whose?) or a modifier in the larger noun phrase (what
kind of?)
Genitives can also be phrases, with their own
determiners and modifiers (She’s going to a friend’s.)
Genitives overlap with of-phrases in the range of
meaning they express
Grammar bite D
English nouns do not have special inflectional endings for gender:
instead, gender is a semantic category in English
English speakers often show gender bias in the way they use
masculine and feminine words, e.g. nouns ending in –man or –
Another example of gender bias is that the pronoun “he” has
traditionally been used to refer to both men and women
Several strategies are used to avoid gender bias with nouns and
Derived nouns can be formed through affixation (prefixes
[subgroup] and suffixes [baggage]), conversion [the whites] and
compounding [swimsuit]
Forming new nouns with suffixes is especially common in
academic writing, while compounding is especially common in
Grammar bite E
The major types of pronouns are personal, reflexive,
demonstrative, and indefinite
Personal pronouns refer to people and entities in the
context of discourse; they can also have generic
Reflexive pronouns are used to refer back to the
subject, or for emphasis
Demonstrative pronouns point to entities which are
‘near’ or ‘distant’ in the context of discourse
Indefinite pronouns are mostly quantifying words,
related in form and meaning to quantifying
Nouns, pronouns, and
the simple noun phrase
Longman Student Grammar of
Spoken and Written English
Biber; Conrad; Leech
(2009, p.55-101)
Types of nouns
Countable and uncountable nouns
 Countability is partly a matter of how we view the world, rather than
how the world really is (e.g. furniture)
 The same as countable or uncountable (tea – teas)
 Plural uncountable nouns (clothes)
Common and Proper nouns
 Proper nouns can sometimes have modifiers and possessive
determiners like common nouns.
 Initial capitals (Sam, Canada, Chevrolet, August, God...)
 Proper nouns regularly occurring with ‘the’ (the Nile, the Titanic)
 Proper nouns behaving like common nouns (keep up with the
Joneses – “Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz”)
Concrete v. abstract nouns (distinction is semantic)
Concrete ones refer to physical entities or substances.
Abstract ones refer to abstractions such as events, states, times, qualities.
The lab crew at Ciba-Geigy, the Swiss chemical and drugs giant,
continues to seek out niche markets with a vengeance.
Package nouns
Collective nouns
Unit nouns (grain of salt)
cut up a generalized substance into individual units
Quantifying nouns
Bunch of roses; Crowd of fans; Flock of birds
Nouns for a type of container (basket of eggs)
Nouns for shape (pile of bricks)
Measure nouns (pint of beer)
Plural numeral nouns (hundreds of time)
Nouns for large quantities (a load of garbage)
Nouns ending in –ful (handful of people)
Pair and couple (pair of gloves; couple of babies)
Species nouns (sort of character, make of machine)
Refer to the type rather than the quantity of something
Types of determiners
Sometimes more than one determiner occurs in the same
noun phrase (all the books) and in this case they occur in a
fixed order (central, predeterminers and postdeterminers)
Determiner type Countable
singular nouns
Zero article
plural nouns
A book
Definite article
The book
The books
The milk
My book
My books
My milk
That book
Those books
That milk
Every book
Many books
Much milk
One book
Two books
Indefinite article
The articles
Indefinite meanings expressed by a/an
 Specific use of a/an (A 12-year-old boy got mad...)
 Unspecific use of a/an (I’m looking for a millionaire...)
 Classifying or generic use of a/an (He is a doctor / A doctor is not better
Indefinite meaning with the zero article
 Meals as institutions (go for dinner) and Places as institutions (go to jail)
 Predicatives with unique references (re-elected OPEC president)
 Means of transport and communication (travel by air; send by mail)
 Times of day, days, months, and seasons (when winter comes...)
 Parallel structures (from country to country)
 Block language (abbreviated) and Vocatives (No hard feelings, Doctor)
The definite article the
 (Indirect) Anaphoric use of the (an associated noun is used with the)
 Use of the with synonyms (indirect anaphora refers to same thing/person)
 Cataphoric use of the (reference is established by sth later in the text)
 Situational use of the (an entity is known from the situation)
Generic reference
Other determiners
Possessive determiners
My, your, his, her, their... Make the noun phrase definite
Demonstrative determiners
Situational reference, Time reference, Anaphoric reference,
Cataphoric reference, Introductory this/that
Quantifiers (quantifying determiners)
Cardinal (similar to quantifiers); ordinal numbers (semi-determiners)
Semi-determiners (same, other, another, last, such)
Inclusive (all), Large quantity (much), Moderate or small quantity
(few), An arbitrary or negative individual or amount (any)
Numerals as determiners
We went to this mall and there was this French restaurant.
These forms lack the descriptive meaning that characterizes
most adjectives, and like most determiners, they can also double
as pronouns. (He’s living with her and another girl.)
Wh-determiner (to introduce interrogative and relative clauses)
Number and case in nouns
Number: singular and plural
Regular and irregular plurals
The singular form of nouns is the unmarked and most common
form. Plurals are often formed by inflectional change.
Regular plurals (pronunciation /iz/ and spelling “calves/beliefs”)
Irregular plurals (native [geese], latin and greek [alumni], zero [deer],
plural-only nouns [cattle] and singular nouns in –s [mumps])
Genitives as determiner [whose] and as modifier [what kind of]
Independent genitives, group genitives, and double
Genitives and of-phrases
The semantic class of the noun; The meaning relation between the
two nouns; Collocations; Length of phrases: end-weight;
Information flow: end-focus; Register distribution of genitives and
Gender and noun formation
Masculine, feminine, personal, and neuter
 Masculine and feminine noun reference [bull – cow]
 Gender bias in nouns [spokesman – spokesperson]
 Gender bias in pronouns [Each novelist aims... the material he has...]
 Personal v.neuter reference with pronouns [babies – animals] BORDERLINE
The formation of derived nouns
 Affixation (noun prefixes and suffixes)
 No affix is added to the base, but the base itself is converted into a
different word class, usually adjective or verb into a noun
they speak like the whites do in the South
... accused him of being a cheat
Noun compounds
 Bar code (noun+noun), Gunfire (noun+verb/noun), Housekeeping (noun+
verb ing), Dishwasher (noun+verb er), Cookbook (verb/noun+noun), Selfesteem (self+noun), Filing cabinet (verb ing+noun), Highway (adjective+
noun), Checkout (verb+particle), Overcoat (particle+verb/noun)
Compound nouns
Credit card
Train station
Types of pronouns
Personal pronouns (number, person, case, gender)
Possessive, reflexive, and reciprocal pronouns
Demonstrative pronouns
Demonstratives are used to refer to humans in introductions.
Indefinite pronouns
Case [nomin., accusat., posses.] and person forms of pronouns
Person and pronoun usage (1st, 2nd, 3rd persons)
Generic use of personal pronouns [You’ve got to be careful...]
Case: nominative v. accusative personal pronouns
Compound pronouns (everybody, something, no one)
Quantifying pronouns (I’ll eat some of the steak)
The pronoun one
 Substitute one, ones (An artist cannot fail, it is success to be one)
 Generic one, one’s, oneself (... a way of validating one’s existence)
Other pronouns (another, the other, others...)