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Nouns  Name Words

Nouns are words that identify concepts, feelings, people, places, and things. In sentences, they are the subjects of verbs. Nouns can be either singular (referring to only one) or plural (referring to more than one). They are categorized into several types.

Proper nouns, which begin with capital letters, name specific persons (e.g., Jerry Lewis), places (e.g., Rocky Mountains), and things (e.g., Loch Ness Monster).

Common nouns are nouns that are not proper. A, an, or the – known as articles – usually precede common nouns (e.g., a giraffe, an elephant, and the lion).

Countable nouns can be counted, which means they have plural forms (e.g., apple/apples, cactus/cacti, criterion/criteria, fax/faxes, man/men, and wife/wives).  

Uncountable nouns denote things that cannot be counted such as anger, creativity, intelligence, and morality.

Concrete nouns are tangible, meaning they have a physical existence like a mountain, stream, or clock.

Abstract nouns such as theories (e.g., communism), feelings (e.g., happiness), and beliefs (e.g., Buddhism) are intangible, so they cannot be seen or touched.

Collective nouns indicate a specific group of animals (e.g., flock of birds), people (e.g., jury of peers), and things (e.g., pile of rubble).


Manser, Martin H. 2006. The Facts on File: Guide to Good Writing. New York, New York: Checkmark Books.

Three Functions of Nouns

Nouns have many functions including the following:

Noun Modifiers

Noun modifiers describe other nouns. Grant proposal, hamburger bun, tree blossom, book report, and college program are examples.

Noun Adverbs

Words that are typically nouns can act like adverbs, which describe verbs, other adverbs, adjectives, and clauses. Adverbs answer the questions: how, when, where, and why.

Use in Sentences

Rita went skiing.

Skiing describes where Rita went.

Tim got a speeding ticket today.

Today describes when Tim got the speeding ticket.

Nouns as Objects of Prepositions

A preposition is used to show a noun's or pronoun's connection to another word in a sentence. A prepositional phrase includes the preposition, noun or pronoun (the object), and the words that modify the object.

Use in Sentences

Carrie graduated from the University of Chicago.

The University of Chicago is the object of the phrase "from the University of Chicago.”

Darrin's travels took him away from his family for several weeks at a time.

Family is the object of the phrase "from his family.”

Weeks is the object of the phrase "for several weeks."

Time is the object of the phrase "at a time."


Encarta Dictionary

Good, Edward C. 2002. A Grammar Book for You and I…oops, me! Herndon. Virginia: Capital Books, Inc.

Terms at Grammar Bites. The Prepositional Phrase.http://www.chompchomp.com/terms/prepositionalphrase.htm.

Terms at Grammar Bites. The Adverb. http://www.chompchomp.com/terms/adverb.htm.

Towson University. Online Writing Support, Prepositions. http://www.towson.edu/ows/prepositions.htm.