in English - types, usage, formation
What is a noun
is a lexical word that represents an entity (person,
creature, object), a substance,
(action, evolution) or an abstraction
Nouns representing named
person/s entity, or place are called called proper nouns
and are Capitalised.
Other nouns are known as or common
1. The classification of
Every noun can be classified in three different ways.
Proper or common ?
Concrete or abstract ? Count or non-count?
representing a named person entity, or place are
called called proper
nouns and are Capitalised.
We also call them "names". Examples: Shakespeare, London, India, Mount Everest, the Titanic, the Olympics, Catholicism, Islam, Google, Gandalf. They are usually concrete and uncountable. Other nouns are known as or common
- Common nouns that denote entities or
substances (even invisible or intangible substances such as air) are called concrete
nouns; nouns denoting abstractions or processes are
- Common nouns designating items or abstractions that can
be counted are known as count
nouns (or countable nouns), and have both singular and plural forms.
Nouns designating generalisations or substances are called non-count nouns (or uncountable nouns) and are normally only used in the singular..
Almost all non-count nouns can also be used as
count nouns in certain circumstances, though most often only in
the singular. The distinction between count and non-count nouns is
fundamental, as they are not used in the same way. ► For more on this see count and non-count nouns
cat, ball, man, table, engine, class, road, aeroplane,
||water, potassium, cement, air,
oil, whisky, concrete
||idea, noun, attitude, name, song, thought, opinion, victory, quantity, length, kilometre
||patience, suspense, life, philosophy,
music, , work, economics
Examples of non-count nouns being used as count nouns in defined circumstances:
Whisky is an alcoholic drink. This pub has fifteen different whiskies.
Work can be interesting, but this work I'm doing is very boring.
Love is all you need; and John had three loves, his wife, his kids and his car.
I love music, but I particularly love the music of Mozart.
While the plural forms whiskies, works and loves are all possible, such plural forms are uncommon. Generally speaking, non-count abstract nouns, for example suspense, patience or music, cannot be used in the plural.
In English, nouns can either be masculine
(referring to men or more generally to male creatures),
(referring to women, or more generally to female creatures), or neutral
(referring to objects, substances, processes or abstractions.)
Contrary to some other European languages, the gender of a
noun is not
reflected in the article or adjective that is linked to it.
Thus one says : a man, a lady, a cat, a decision,
this man, this lady
On the other hand, the gender of a noun is reflected in the third person singular
in personal pronouns
and in possessive
pronouns and adjectives relating to it. Thus
- I saw
the boy > becomes I saw him.
- I saw
the girl > becomes I saw her.
- I saw
the cat > becomes I saw it.
- This is
Mark's computer > becomes This is his computer
- This is
Mary's computer > becomes This is her computer.
For more details see ►
formation of nouns
Many nouns represent primary entities; these are root nouns such as :
There are no rules
that govern the form of a root noun..
- Apple, Boot, Child, Dog, Egg, Finger, Giraffe, Hand,
Other nouns, known as derived
nouns, are formed from verbs, adjectives or from other
The formation of derived nouns in English is very
easy . This is one of the strengths of the
English language !
Most frequently, derived nouns are formed from a root (not
necessarily another existing word, but a
"lexeme", a unit of lexical meaning) to which is added an ending.
Most endings imply a specific or general meaning..
Here are the most common endings used to form nouns in English.:
- -ion , -ence, -ness, -ment, -ity, -ics,
- Action, nation, inflation,
discussion - with -ion
Patience, maintenance, conscience - with (i)ence or -(i)ance
Madness, emptiness, loneliness, greatness - with -ness
Parliament, instrument, apartment, containment, - with -ment
Community, commodity, validity, - with -ity
- Physics, economics, analytics,
statistics, logistics - with
Farming, marketing, beginning, ending, with -ing
Nouns with irregular plurals
nouns in English is very simple. With just a
the plural of all English nouns is formed by adding the letter
Nouns in s, sh or z,
When the singular of an English noun ends in s, sh
the plural is normally formed by adding -es
buses, Bush > bushes, Buzz > buzzes,
With some words ending in s,
the plural and singular are identical
A series >
two series, a means > two means > a species
> two species,
Nouns ending in -f.
(but not all) nouns ending in a single -f ,
the plural is formed by replacing the final -f
>halves, Hoof > hooves, thief > thieves
> roofs, belief > beliefs
The same goes for words ending in -fe
>knives, Life > lives, thief > thieves
Words ending in -is
With words like analysis,
hypothesis, the plural is formed by replacing the final -is
: analysis >
analyses, hypothesis > hypotheses, crisis > crises
Some words derived
directly or supposedly from Latin or Greek
In some cases, the original Latin or Greek ending is used
cacti, Medium > media, nucleus > nuclei, criterion
> criteria, stimulus > stimuli etc.
A few irregular
A very small number of common English nouns have irregular plurals:
Man > men ,
Woman > women , Child > children,
mice, Foot > feet, Tooth > teeth
Animals and fish
For some animals, some birds, and a lot of fish (including the word fish), the plural
is - or may be - the same as the singular.
A bison >
two bison, a deer > two deer(s), a fish > two
perch > two perch, a salmon > two salmon, a
sheep > two sheep, a grouse > two grouse
Most other animals and birds have regular plurals : two horses, two cats, two dogs,
two pigs, two pigeons, two eagles etc.
Nouns of nationality in the plural
nationality ending in -sh
-ch -ese or -ss
do not take any plural ending; they are invariable. Other nouns of
nationality obey the general rules for plurals.
English, the Scottish, the Spanish, the French, the Dutch, the Swiss,
the Portuguese, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Lebanese....
But : The
Americans, the Australians, the Finns, the Swedes, the Russians, the
Poles, the Brazilians, the Serbs, the Greeks, the Moroccans, the
Afghans, the Pakistanis, etc.
Collective nouns: singular or plural ? Should one say The committee is or The committee are ? ► See Collective nouns
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