Nouns are people, places, things, or ideas. They may be proper, specific, or common. Without ’em, readers wouldn’t know if they (we!) were at the ocean or a lake, hiking in a lush, rich forest or across the desert, cooking in the kitchen or over a campfire…discussing philosophy or strategy…sewing a quilt or a shirt…typing a novel or a screenplay…and on and on…
Grammar Explanations is…
…an evolving list of the structural rules and principles that determines where words are placed in phrases or sentences as well as how the language is spoken. Sometimes I run across an example that helps explain better or another “also known as”. Heck, there’s always a better way to explain it, so if it makes quicker and/or better sense, I would appreciate suggestions and comments from anyone… Are there areas of grammar with which you struggle?
If you’d like to track it, bookmark this page. And consider sharing this Grammar Explanation with friends by tweeting it.
|Credit to: Towson.edu; Bruckmyer, 72|
|Definition: Person, place, thing, or idea. One tip-off is if the word is preceded by
A good indicator is the use of a determiner which signals that the following word is a noun.
|Head Noun||Definition: The key word that determines the nature of a phrase (in contrast to any modifiers or determiners).
A.k.a., head word, primary word, governor, primary noun
We swam through the coral reefs in the Caribbean.
John and I really enjoy space opera movies.
People who run are susceptible to shin splints.
|Creating Plural Nouns|
|Definition: A noun that indicates more than one in number.
General Rule: The rules for who, how, and which to add that s to!
|NOTE: Crystal notes the “greengrocer’s apostrophe” which results from the confusion as to whether food nouns end in s or es with the produce becoming ‘s: potato’s, tomato’s. I disagree with his assessment, however (Crystal, 240).|
|Types of Nouns|
|Common Noun||Definition: General items|
+ + +
|Deverbal Noun||Definition: Verbs or verb phrases that behave grammatically as nouns.
A.k.a., nominalization — using verbs as nouns
|Verbal Noun||Definition: A noun with verbal characteristics but has no verb-like properties. A verbal noun can take determiners, be modified by adjectives, be pluralized (if the sense allows), or be followed by a prepositional phrase.|
|Verbal nouns are formed in a number of ways, usually by adding a suffix to the base form of the verb.
NOTE: Verbal nouns cannot be modified by an adverb nor can they can take objects.
|His sudden arrival surprised me.
He has not yet announced his decision.
He boarded a flight to Chicago.
I do not want a repetition of yesterday’s events.
The Iraqis staged a surprise attack.
|Proper Noun||Definition: Names of actual people, places, animals, ideas, and products.
NOTE: They are always capitalized.
|Return to top||George
Black and Decker
|Singular or Plural Noun||Definition: It’s exactly what you think… Be aware that there are also collective nouns that are singular group or plural group nouns.|
|Singular Noun||Plural Noun|
|Definition: A noun that refers to only one thing, person, idea, place, etc.||Definition: A noun that refers to multiple things, persons, ideas, places, etc.|
|Paul, Mary, Henry||Pauls, Marys, Henrys|
|Idea Noun||Definition: A word that expresses a concept.
A.k.a., abstract noun
|Possessive Noun||Definition: Shows that the noun owns something.
Also a noun phrase.
|Return to top||arm’s length
|Predicate Noun||Definition: A single noun or a noun phrase that renames the subject of a sentence and follows a stative or linking verb.
When it follows an intransitive verb, the predicate noun completes the meaning of the sentence.
A.k.a., Predicate nominative, completer, subject complement
|Mr. Smith is a doctor.
My son became a professional soccer player.
Mary Smith may be our next president.
J. K. Rowling is an excellent author.
Wind turbines are an alternative source of power.
Pavarotti was a great singer.
For the next twenty years, we remained friends.
|Quantity Noun||Definition: Phrases or terms used to tell the quantities of things. Some quantity nouns tell the quantities of certain countable and uncountable nouns.|
|Rule: If the item is plural, use a plural quantity noun; if the quantity noun is plural, be sure the item is plural.|
|a bottle of…
a cup of…
a set of…
a pair of…
a slice of…
|a tube of…
a stick of…
a box of…
a stack of…
a loaf of…
|Compound Noun||Definition: Two or more words, usually a noun + noun (modified noun)/adjective/preposition/verb, that is joined in one of three ways: closed, hyphenated, open, or long Compound Noun.
Anatomy of a Compound Noun:
NOTE: You don’t really need to remember all this branching stuff; I’m including it so that when you do run across it, it doesn’t throw you for a loop!
|Closed Compound Noun||Rule: Words are joined together.|
|Compound Word||Primary Noun||Modifying Word||Part of Grammar|
|Hyphenated Compound Noun||Rule: Words are joined by a hyphen.|
|Compound Word||Primary Noun||Modifying Word||Part of Grammar|
|Open Compound Noun||Rule: Words are not joined together.|
|Compound Word||Primary Noun||Modifying Word||Part of Grammar|
|Learn English Grammar Network which has a huge, and I mean huge list of compound words. An easy way to check to see if your phrase is a compound word is to look in an accredited dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Oxford English, and American Heritage are the most preferred by editors, ahem.|
|Long Compound Noun||Definition: When multiple nouns modify another noun, it can be exhausting to keep reading and wondering when the end will come. It can become confusing to understand what is being modified.
A.k.a., stacked noun phrase or packed noun phrase
|uniform resource locator protocol problem
lake water pollution reduction log
veteran employee discount clearance card
low-emission fossil fuel injection pump
|DISCLAIMER: The concept of the collective noun is easy enough to grasp. What’s confusing is the number of books and sites that sway back and forth about how collective feeds into the countable or uncountable nouns. Most infer that countable and uncountable all come under the umbrella of collective; a few imply that the uncountable nouns are the collective. I’m aggregating what I’ve learned with countable and uncountable under one heading — collective — and it may change at any time.|
|Definition: A countable or uncountable noun that appears to be singular, but refers to a group of people, animals, or things that act as one. It can be treated as either singular or plural.
A.k.a., group nouns.
|Rule: Whether a group noun is singular or plural depends on if the action is undertaken by the group as a whole or if the action taken by people within the group are individual moves.
Singular: Everyone acts as one unit
Plural: Members of that group act individually
The British tend to treat all group nouns as plural.
|Singular: Group Acts as One||Plural: Group Acts as Individuals|
|The class has decided to buy their teacher a group gift.
The staff vehemently opposes working on New Year’s Day.
The family was united on this question.
Seven hours seems like a long time to wait for tickets.
One hundred dollars has been added to your account.
A large percentage of the state favors the death penalty.
Most of the roast beef was eaten immediately.
The location of the cows is not my problem.
The theme of those movies gives me the shivers.
|For Parents’ Day, the class are dressing in their parents’ old clothes.
The prison population were writing revolutionary slogans on the walls of their cells.
My family are always fighting among themselves.
A large percentage of the voters are dissatisfied with our senator.
Most of my friends are vegetarians.
|Rule: Single item that consist of two parts (and uses a plural verb)|
a pair of…
|[Some] Collective Noun Examples Used For Things|
|galaxy||pack (of cards, of lies)
a pair of…
|Rule: Plural noun uses singular verb|
|[Some] Collective Animal Noun Examples|
|Countable & Uncountable Nouns|
|CAUTION: Depending upon the quantifier or determiner used, a countable can become uncountable and vice versa. And then there are nouns which swing from countable to uncountable and can mean different things.
See Quantifier for a list of words and phrases used with countable and uncountable nouns.
|Countable Noun||Definition: People or things which are treated as separate items which can be counted, modified by a number or quantified with size, amount, or value related words, i.e., things that we can count.
Countable nouns can be singular or plural and are used with:
|[Some] Countable Noun Examples|
|We can count pens. We can have one, two, three or more pens.
Hovering over words with a dotted underline will tell you if it’s an article, quantifier, or determiner.
|dog, cat, animal, man, person
bottle, box, litre
coin, note, dollar
cup, plate, fork
table, chair, suitcase, bag
an apple, ten apples
my aunt, three aunts
a book, a shelf full of books
a car, four cars
a DVD, ten DVDs
computer, a few computers
|My dog is playing.
My dogs are hungry.
A dog is an animal.
I’ve got some dollars.
Have you got any pens?
I’ve got a few dollars.
I haven’t got many pens.
|Rule: Singular countable nouns need a word like a, the, my, this with it.|
|I want an orange.
Where is my bottle?
|Rule: Plural countable nouns can be used alone.|
|I like oranges.
Bottles can break.
|Uncountable Noun||Definition: People or things which may be seen as a whole or as a mass, substances, or concepts, etc., that can’t be divided into separate elements. They cannot be separated or counted. We cannot count them.
For example, we can count bottles of milk or litres of milk, but we cannot count milk itself.
A.k.a., mass noun, non-count noun
|[Some] Uncountable Noun Examples|
|Rule: Uncountable nouns are usually treated as singular and use a singular verb.|
|This news is very important.
Your luggage looks heavy.
|Rule: Uncountable nouns don’t usually use the indefinite article — a or an. There is no an information or a happiness, although you can “contain” it…a something of…|
|a piece of news
a bottle of water
a grain of rice
|Rule: There are specific quantifiers that are used with uncountable nouns, including some, any, a little or much.|
|I’ve got some money.
Have you got any rice?
I’ve got a little money.
I haven’t got much rice.
|Countable Nouns That Can Be Uncountable||Definition: Sometimes, the same noun can be countable and uncountable, often with a change of meaning.|
|There are two hairs in my coffee!||I don’t have much hair.|
|There are two lights in our bedroom.||Close the curtain. There’s too much light!|
|Shhhhh! I thought I heard a noise.||There are so many different noises in the city.
It’s difficult to work when there is so much noise.
|Have you got a paper to read?||Hand me those student papers.
I want to draw a picture. Have you got some paper?
|Our house has seven rooms.||Is there room for me to sit here?|
|We had a great time at the party.
How many times have I told you no?
|Have you got time for a cup of coffee?|
|Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s greatest works.||I have no money. I need work!|
|Two teas and one coffee please.||tea
|Definition: Certain nouns (Latin words and personal names) change depending on whether they’re masculine, feminine, or neuter.
Suffixes such as -ess, -ette, and -er may be used to affect the difference between feminine and masculine, with the feminine being much more common.
|Definition: A word or group of words that functions in a sentence as subject, object, or prepositional object, using a noun (or indefinite pronoun) as its head word + a modifier.
A.k.a., nominal phrase , NP
|The Modifier for a Noun Phrase||Definition: A word that that comes before or after the head noun, pronoun, or numeral.|
|Grammar||Modifier Noun Phrase Examples|
|adjective||the tall and brilliant professor|
|complement||The convention named Dogbreath vice president.|
|determiner||that darn cat|
|infinitive phrase||the first man to walk on the moon|
|modifying clause||the presentation that he had made the day before
|participial phrase||the road following the edge of the frozen lake|
|prepositional phrase||the building next to the lodge, over by the highway
the art over the sofa
|verb||the running man
|Noun in a Noun Phrase||Rule: Usually the modifier precedes the noun and consists of determiner and sometimes an adjective phrase.|
|Noun Modifier||Definition: Two nouns used together show that one thing is a part of something else; it modifies the meaning of the primary noun (British Council).
A.k.a., noun adjunct, attributive noun, noun premodifier
|Modified Noun||Its Meaning|
|Rule: Noun modifiers are placed after adjectives.|
old newspaper seller
tiring fifty kilometer journey
|Rule: Use noun modifiers to show what something is made of.|
|Rule: Nouns ending in -er and -ing are often used as noun modifiers|
|Rule: Measurements, age, or value can be used as noun modifiers.|
|Rule: Sometimes more than two nouns are used together.|
London office workers
|Noun Phrase as Prepositional Complement||Definition: Noun phrases most frequently function as prepositional complements.
Rule: A preposition introduces the noun phrase.
The keys are on the hall table.
I hate it when people get up during the movie.
I saw him going into the motel.
|Numerals in a Noun Phrase||Rule: Numerals, when used as a noun, may also be heads.|
|Pronouns in a Noun Phrase||Rule: Pronouns in a noun phrase do not use determiners and adjective phrases are not used before the pronoun, although they may be used after the pronoun.|
|Types of Noun Phrases|
|Discontinuous Noun Phrase||Definition: A broken noun phrase; it may be split or delayed and placed at the end of a sentence to give a greater emphasis or focus on that last part of the phrase. The ending part of the phrase is usually a modifying phrase: participial or prepositional.|
|Several accidents have been reported involving passengers falling from trains.
If the noun phrase were continuous:
Several accidents involving passengers falling from trains have been reported recently.
A rumor circulated among the staff that he was being promoted to Vice President.
A rumor that he was being promoted to Vice President circulated among the staff.
The time had come to stop spending money foolishly and to put something away for the future.
The time to stop spending money foolishly and to put something away for the future had come.
That hard drive was faulty that you sold me.
That hard drive that you sold me was faulty.
|Vocative Noun Phrase||Definition: The vocative case is someone who is being addressed directly. As a noun phrase, which is really just being picky, it’s more than one noun.
It is always treated as parenthetical text set off with commas.
If it is a proper noun, it may be referred to as a noun of address.
Dr. Fletcher, your patient is here.
Madame President, the meeting is about to begin.
You lily-livered gobshite, what are you doing?
Whoever is making that racket, you’d better stop!
Yes, Your Honor, that’s the truth.
Wait a minute, detective, I’ve just thought of something.
|Definition: A dependent clause that functions as a noun within a sentence and is introduced by a subordinate conjunction.
Usually abstract in meaning, the noun clause may be a subject, object, or complement within the sentence and may function as an appositive or a complement of adjective or preposition. A noun clause may also incorporate non-finite clauses, -ing clauses, and infinitive clauses.
a.k.a., nominal clause
|Function, Clause, etc.||Sentence|
|subject||What happened next remains a mystery.|
|object||He alleges that he doesn’t remember a thing.|
|complement||The question is how we should proceed.|
|complement of adjective||I’m not sure if we should report this.|
|complement of preposition||It depends on what happens next.|
|apposition||The question whether this is a criminal matter, is not easy to answer.|
|-ing clause||He’s talking about facing the music.|
|infinitive clause||To err is human.|
|non-finite clause||All I did was laugh.|
|Noun Clause as Prepositional Complement||Definition: It’s a noun clause introduced by a preposition.|
Henry’s date will think about that he plans to divest her of her virginity on prom night.
We are planning on whomever you bring to be a guy.
The quarterback listened to what the coach had to say.
|Relative Noun Clause||Definition: Can refer to people, things, or abstract ideas.
Rule: Clause begins with a wh- word AND includes the antecedent within itself.
a.k.a., nominal relative clause, fused relative construction, independent relative clause, free relative clause, wh- clause.
See more on the post about relative clauses.
|I don’t know what happened.
Whoever told you that was wrong.
|Reported Question||Definition: A form of reported speech, this clause restates a direct question as a statement.|
|That-Clause||Definition: A clause beginning with that or where that could be inserted.|
|That you believe it can happen is crazy.
I’m sorry that you’re so upset.
What is that you’re sewing?