noun is the word that refers to a person, thing or abstract idea. A noun can tell you who or what.

There are several different types of noun:

  • There are common nouns such as dog, car, chair etc.
  • Nouns that refer to things which can be counted (can be singular or plural) are countable nouns.
  • Nouns that refer to some groups of countable nouns, substances, feelings and types of activity (can only be singular) are uncountable nouns.
  • Nouns that refer to a group of people or things are collective nouns.
  • Nouns that refer to people, organisations or places are proper nouns, only proper nouns are capitalised.
  • Nouns that are made up of two or more words are called compound nouns.
  • Nouns that are formed from a verb by adding –ing are called gerunds

Abstract Nouns

An abstract noun is a noun that you cannot sense, it is the name we give to an emotion, ideal or idea. They have no physical existence, you can’t see, hear, touch, smell or taste them. The opposite of an abstract noun is aconcrete noun.

For example:

Justice; an idea, bravery and happiness are all abstract nouns.

Here is an a-z list of some common abstract nouns.

adoration artistry
belief bravery
calm charity childhood comfort compassion
failure faith feelings friendship
happiness hate honesty hope
idea impression infatuation
law liberty love loyalty
maturity memory
peace pride principle power
redemption romance
sadness sensitivity skill sleep success sympathy
talent thrill truth

Collective Nouns / Group Nouns

A collective noun is a noun that is singular in form but refers to a group of people or things.

Sometimes they refer to a group of specific things.

For example:

Tables, chairs, cupboards etc. are grouped under the collective noun furniture.
Plates, saucers, cups and bowls are grouped under the collective noun crockery.

These collective nouns are often uncountable.

Sometimes they are more general:

For example:

Groups of people – army, audience, band, choir, class, committee, crew, family, gang, jury, orchestra, police, staff, team, trio

Groups of animals – colony, flock, herd, pack, pod, school, swarm

Groups of things – bunch, bundle, clump, pair, set, stack

When such a group is considered as a single unit, the collective noun is used with a singular verb and singular pronouns.

For example – The committee has reached its decision.

But when the focus is on the individual members of the group, British English uses a plural verb and plural pronouns.

For example – “The committee have been arguing all morning.” This is the same as saying “The people in the committe have been ….

A determiner in front of a singular collective noun is always singular: this committee , never these committee (but of course when the collective noun is pluralized, it takes a plural determiner: these committees ).

Common Nouns

A common noun is a word that names people, places, things, or ideas. They are not the names of a single person, place or thing.

A common noun begins with a lowercase letter unless it is at the beginning of a sentence.

For example:

People: man, girl, boy, mother, father, child, person, teacher, student
Animals: cat, dog, fish, ant, snake
Things: book, table, chair, phone
Places: school, city, building, shop
Ideas: love, hate, idea, pride

Compound Nouns

compound noun is a noun that is made up of two or more words. Most compound nouns in English are formed by nouns modified by other nouns or adjectives.

For example:

The words tooth and paste are each nouns in their own right, but if you join them together they form a new word – toothpaste.

The word black is an adjective and board is a noun, but if you join them together they form a new word – blackboard.

In both these example the first word modifies or describes the second word, telling us what kind of object or person it is, or what its purpose is. And the second part identifies the object or person in question.

Compound nouns can also be formed using the following combinations of words:

Noun + Noun toothpaste
Adjective + Noun monthly ticket
Verb + Noun swimming pool
Preposition + Noun underground
Noun + Verb haircut
Noun + Preposition hanger on
Adjective + Verb dry-cleaning
Preposition + Verb output

The two parts may be written in a number of ways:

1. Sometimes the two words are joined together.
Example: tooth + paste = toothpaste | bed + room = bedroom

2. Sometimes they are joined using a hyphen.
Example: check-in

3. Sometimes they appear as two separate words.
Example: full moon

A good dictionary will tell you how you should write each compound noun.

Concrete Nouns

A concrete noun is the name of something or someone that we experience through our senses, sight, hearing, smell, touch or taste. Most nouns are concrete nouns. The opposite of a concrete noun is an abstract noun.

For example:

Cats, dogs, tables, chairs, buses, and teachers are all concrete nouns.

Countable / Uncountable Nouns

A noun can be countable or uncountable. Countable nouns can be “counted”, they have a singular and plural form .

For example:

  • A book, two books, three books …..
  • An apple, two apples, three apples ….

Uncountable nouns (also called mass nouns or noncount nouns) cannot be counted, they are not seperate objects. This means you cannot make them plural by adding -s, because they only have a singular form. It also means that they do not take a/an or a number in front of them.

For example:

  • Water
  • Work
  • Information
  • Coffee
  • Sand
(use a/an or a number in front of countable nouns)
(there is no a/an or number with uncountable nouns)
An Apple / 1 Apple Rice
I eat an apple every day. I eat rice every day. (not I eat a rice every day.)
Add (s) to make a countable noun plural There is no plural form for an uncountable noun
apples rice
I eat an apple every day. Apples are good for you. I eat rice every day. Rice is good for you.
A computer= Computers are fun. To make uncountable nouns countable add a counting word, such as a unit of measurement, or the general word piece. We use the form “a ……. of …….”
An elephant=Elephants are large. Rice=a grain of rice
Water=a glass of water
Rain=a drop of rain
Music=a piece of music
You can use some and any with countable nouns.
Some dogs can be dangerous.
I don’t use any computers at work.
You can use some and any with uncountable nouns.
I usually drink some wine with my meal.
I don’t usually drink any water with my wine.
You only use many and few with plural countable nouns.
So many elephants have been hunted that they are an endangered species.
There are few elephants in England.
You only use much and little with uncountable nouns.
I don’t usually drink much coffee.
Little wine is undrinkable though.
You can use a lot of and no with plural countable nouns.
No computers were bought last week.
A lot of computers were reported broken the week before.
You can use a lot of and no with uncountable nouns.
A lot of wine is drunk in France.
No wine is drunk in Iran. 
Making uncountable nouns countable

You can make most uncountable noun countable by putting a countable expression in front of the noun.

For example:

  • piece of information.
  • glasses of water.
  • 10 litres of coffee.
  • Three grains of sand.
  • pane of glass.
Sources of confusion with countable and uncountable nouns

The notion of countable and uncountable can be confusing.

Some nouns can be countable or uncountable depending on their meaning. Usually a noun is uncountable when used in a general, abstract meaning (when you don’t think of it as a separate object) and countable when used in a particular meaning (when you can think of it as a separate object).

For example:

glass – A glass of water. (Countable) | A window made of glass. (Uncountable)

Some supposedly uncountable nouns can behave like countable nouns if we think of them as being in containers, or one of several types.

This is because ‘containers’ and ‘types’ can be counted.

Believe it or not each of these sentences is correct:-

Doctors recommend limiting consumption to two coffees a day.
(Here coffees refers to the number of cups of coffee)
You could write; “Doctors recommend limiting consumption to two cups of coffee a day.

The coffees I prefer are Arabica and Brazilian.
(Here coffees refers to different types of coffee)
You could write; “The types of coffee I prefer are Arabica and Brazilian.

Gerund Nouns

A gerund (often known as an -ing word) is a noun formed from a verb by adding –ing. It can follow a preposition, adjective and most often another verb.

For example:

  • I enjoy walking.

Predicate Nouns

A predicate noun follows a form of the verb “to be”.

He is an idiot. (Here idiot is a predicate noun because it follows is; a form of the verb “be”.)

A predicate noun renames the subject of a sentence.

Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister. (Margaret Thatcher is the subject and Prime Minister is the predicate noun – notice it follows ‘was’ the past tense of ‘to be’.)

Proper Nouns

Proper nouns ( also called proper names) are the words which name specific people, organizations or places. They always start with a capital letter.

For example:-

Each part of a person’s name is a proper noun:-

Lynne Hand – Elizabeth Helen Ruth Jones …

The names of companies, organisations or trade marks:

Microsoft – Rolls Royce – the Round Table – WWW

Given or pet names of animals:

Lassie Trigger Sam

The names of cities and countries and words derived from those proper nouns:

Paris – London – New York – England – English

Geographical and Celestial Names:

the Red Sea – Alpha Centauri – Mars

Monuments, buildings, meeting rooms:-

The Taj Mahal – The Eiffel Tower – Room 222

Historical events, documents, laws, and periods:

the Civil War – the Industrial Revolution – World War I

Months, days of the week, holidays:

Monday – Christmas – December

Religions, deities, scriptures:-

God – Christ – Jehovah – Christianity – Judaism – Islam – the Bible – the Koran – the Torah

Awards, vehicles, vehicle models and names, brand names:

the Nobel Peace Prize – the Scout Movement – Ford Focus – the Bismarck – Kleenex – Hoover