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Definition of essay

 (Entry 1 of 2)

Definition of essay  (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

  • composition

attempt , try , endeavor , essay , strive mean to make an effort to accomplish an end.

attempt stresses the initiation or beginning of an effort.

try is often close to attempt but may stress effort or experiment made in the hope of testing or proving something.

endeavor heightens the implications of exertion and difficulty.

essay implies difficulty but also suggests tentative trying or experimenting.

strive implies great exertion against great difficulty and specifically suggests persistent effort.

Examples of essay in a Sentence

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'essay.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Middle French essai , ultimately from Late Latin exagium act of weighing, from Latin ex- + agere to drive — more at agent

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Phrases Containing essay

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“Essay.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary , Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/essay. Accessed 2 May. 2024.

Kids Definition

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Definition of essay noun from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary

Questions about grammar and vocabulary?

Find the answers with Practical English Usage online, your indispensable guide to problems in English.

  • 3 essay (in something) ( formal ) an attempt to do something His first essay in politics was a complete disaster.

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So you may be wondering why in the world we have to complicate something as simple as nouns by discussing so many different types of nouns. The answer is that it’s important to learn about the different types of nouns as you work to ensure proper structures and agreements in your sentences.

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  • Grammar Essentials »
  • Parts of Speech »

10 Types Of Nouns Used In The English Language

what type of noun is essay

Nouns are an all-star team of words and always have a player ready to step up to the plate, no matter the challenge. Common nouns, proper nouns, abstract nouns, and concrete nouns are our go-to nouns but there are many types of nouns ready to get in the game. To learn the difference between all these nouns, use this guide to link to in-depth articles about each type of noun.

What is a noun ?

A noun is a word that refers to a person, place, or thing. The category of “things” may sound super vague, but in this case it means inanimate objects, abstract concepts, and activities. Phrases and other parts of speech can also behave like nouns and can be the subject in a sentence, as in Jogging is a fun exercise . Here, the verb jogging acts like a noun and is the subject of the sentence.

Different types of nouns

1) common nouns.

Common nouns are words that refer to undefined or generic people, places, or things. For example, the country is a common noun that refers to a generic place while the word Canada is not a common noun because it refers to a specific place. Common nouns are only capitalized when they begin sentences or are used in the names or titles of something, as in Grand Canyon or Iron Man.

  • common nouns: house, cat, girl, foot, country

2) Proper nouns

Proper nouns help distinguish a specific person, place, or thing. These words should be capitalized. The names and titles of things are always proper nouns, such as the brand name Starbucks and the personal name Jenny.

  • proper nouns: Spain, Fido, Sony

3) Singular nouns

Singular nouns are nouns that refer to only one person, place or thing. For example, a cat is one animal and a banana is one fruit.

  • singular nouns: house, cat, girl, foot, country

4) Plural nouns

A  plural   noun refers to more than one of something. Many singular nouns just need an S added at the end to make them plural (e.g.,  bee becomes bees ). For some nouns that already end with an S , you may need to add -es to the end to make their plural forms (e.g.,  classes and buses ). Some singular nouns also change spelling when made plural (e.g. countries and babies ).

  • regular plural nouns: houses, cats, girls, countries

Not all nouns follow this pattern. Those that become plural in other ways are called irregular plural nouns . Some examples are man and men , wolf and wolves , foot and feet , and sheep and …  sheep.

  • irregular plural nouns: person and people life and lives mouse and mice tooth and teeth

5) Concrete nouns

A concrete noun is something that can be perceived through the five senses. If you can see, hear, touch, taste, or smell something, it uses a concrete noun.

  • concrete nouns: table, apple, rabbit, ear

6) Abstract nouns

Abstract nouns are intangible ideas that can’t be perceived with the five senses, such as social concepts, political theories, and character traits. For example, the abstract noun anger refers to an emotion and the abstract noun courage refers to a quality a person has.

  • abstract nouns: love, creativity, democracy

7) Collective nouns

A collective noun  is a noun that functions as a singular noun while referring to a group of people or things. A collective noun refers to a group that functions as one unit or performs the same action at the same time. For example: the team plays in the main gym.

  • collective nouns: crowd, flocks, committee, a sum of money

WATCH: We Asked: How Do You Remember The Definition Of A "Noun"?

8) compound nouns.

A compound noun combines two or more words into one. Compound nouns can appear as a single word, multiple words used separately, or words connected by hyphens.

  • compound nouns: dry-cleaning, jack-in-the-box, toothpaste, haircut, output, ice cream, potato chip

9) Countable nouns

A countable noun (also known as a count noun ) is one that you can count. When you have three books or 10 pennies , you are describing a noun that is countable.

  • countable nouns: table, apple, rabbit, ear

10) Uncountable nouns

An uncountable noun (also known as a mass noun ) is one that cannot be counted. For example, happiness cannot be counted. You don’t say that you have “a happiness” or “three happinesses.” Uncountable nouns typically don’t have plural forms.

  • uncountable nouns: salt, seafood, luggage, advice

Types of nouns chart

Nouns make up the majority of the English language. More nouns appear every year as people come up with new ideas, media, and technologies. However, a noun’s basic function never changes. It is a person, place, or thing, and it may be one or more of the types of nouns that we all know and love.

Nouns are great, but when you’re looking for clarity in writing, punctuation marks do the work! Learn about the major ones here.

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Home » Nouns: Definition & Types With Examples | Vocabularyan

Nouns: Definition & Types With Examples | Vocabularyan

Nouns: Definition & Types With Examples

Nouns are like naming words. They’re often the first things you learn about in English class. They’re important because they give names to everything we can sense with our five senses: touch, see, smell, taste, hear, or hold. So, if you can point to it, describe it, or experience it, chances are it’s a noun!

Table of Contents

What is a Noun?

A noun is a word that names a person, place, thing, or idea. It could be anything you can see, touch, hear, taste, or smell. For example, “dog,” “house,” “love,” and “friend” are all nouns. Nouns are like labels that we use to talk about our world’s people, objects, or concepts.

Types of Nouns:

Nouns can be classified into several types based on their roles and characteristics. Here are some common types of nouns:

 1: Common Nouns

These are general names for people, places, things, or ideas.

  Examples: “dog,” “city,” “book,” and “happiness.”

2: Proper Nouns :

These are specific names for individual people, places, or things and are typically capitalized.

 Examples: “John,” “Paris,” “The Great Gatsby,” and “Coca-Cola.”

3: Concrete Nouns :

These are nouns that refer to things that can be perceived through the senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, or smell).

 Examples: “table,” “music,” “tree,” and “chocolate.”

4: Abstract Nouns :

These are nouns that refer to ideas, concepts, feelings, or qualities that cannot be perceived through the senses.

Examples: “love,” “happiness,” “freedom,” and “justice.”

 5 :Countable Nouns :

These nouns can be counted and have both singular and plural forms.

Examples: “car” (singular) and “cars” (plural), “apple” (singular) and “apples” (plural).

 6: Uncountable (Mass) Nouns :

These are nouns that cannot be counted individually and do not have a plural form.

 Examples: “water,” “rice,” “knowledge,” and “money.”

7: Collective Nouns :

These are nouns that refer to groups of people or things as a single unit.

Examples: “team,” “herd,” “family,” and “flock.”

8: Compound Nouns :

These are nouns formed by combining two or more words.

Examples: “toothpaste,” “bluebird,” “firefighter,” and “mother-in-law.”

Example of Noun Sentences

  • The dog barked loudly.
  • We picnicked in the garden .
  • The car zoomed by.
  • My phone buzzed often.
  • The teacher taught well.
  • We hiked the forest .
  • The coffee was good.
  • My shoes were worn.
  • The sun set beautifully.
  • The computer showed data.
  • A kite flew high.
  • The movie was crowded.
  • The artifact amazed him.
  • The restaurant served diverse dishes.
  • The music played loud.
  • The river flowed gently.
  • She studied constellations .
  • The bicycle raced downhill.
  • The painter worked diligently.
  • The airplane flew swiftly.

Nouns Used as Different Components of a Sentence

These are some common ways in which nouns are used as different components of a sentence, helping to convey meaning and structure.

1: Subject : The subject of a sentence is the noun or noun phrase that performs the action of the verb or is described by the verb.

  • “The cat” chased the mouse.
  • “My friend” likes to play basketball.

2: Direct Object : The direct object receives the action of the verb. It answers the question “What?” or “Whom?” after the action verb.

  • I bought “a book.”
  • She painted “the wall.”

3: Indirect Object : The indirect object is the recipient of the direct object. It answers the question “To whom?” or “For whom?” or “To what?” or “For what?” after the action verb. Example:

  • He gave “me” “a gift.”
  • She made “us” and “some cookies.”

4: Object of a Preposition : A noun can also be the object of a preposition, which is a word that shows the relationship between a noun (or pronoun) and another word in the sentence.

  • The book is “on” “the table.”
  • She walked “to” “the park.”

5: Predicate Nominative (Subject Complement) : A predicate nominative follows a linking verb and renames or identifies the subject of a sentence.

  • She is “a doctor.”
  • The winner of the contest was “Jane.”

6: Appositive : An appositive is a noun or noun phrase that renames or further identifies another noun right beside it.

  • My friend, “Tom,” is coming over.
  • My favorite fruit, “apples,” is nutritious.

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Home — Essay Samples — Science — English Language — Nouns in the English Language


Nouns in The English Language

  • Categories: English Language

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Words: 2272 |

12 min read

Published: Apr 11, 2019

Words: 2272 | Pages: 5 | 12 min read

  • Proper and common nouns
  • Personal names (both first names like Diana and Chris, as well as surnames like Popescu);
  • Nationalities (the Japanese, the British)
  • Languages (English, Romanian, Spanish);
  • Titles (Mr. John, Miss Deborah, Mrs. Kerry, Dr. Smith, Queen Elisabeth, Lord Byron, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Sergent Jackson, Professor Bright);
  • Animals (Spot, Missy);
  • Calendar items (January, Monday, Christmas);
  • Geographical names like:
  • continents (Europe, Africa)
  • countries (the United States of America, Greece)
  • rivers, lakes, oceans, seas (the Black Sea, the Danube, Lake Michigan)
  • mountains (the Alps) and so on.
  • Celestial bodies (the Moon, Venus)
  • Cardinal points, when they are not used geographically (North, West);
  • Institutions (the European Union, the National Theatre, the British Museum);
  • Newspapers, titles of books, magazines (the Guardian, Vogue, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes)
  • Countable and uncountable nouns
  • it has a plural form (girl – girls, table - tables);
  • it can be preceded by the indefinite article a/an (a cat, an argument);
  • it can be preceded by How many or (a) few (How many pencils have you got?; My cousin has a few books);
  • it can be preceded by numbers (one pencil box with three rulers).
  • it has not a plural form (sugar, silver, blood);
  • it cannot be preceded by the indefinite article a/an (Such fine weather!);
  • it can be preceded by How much or (a) little (How much honey do you want?; My parents have little furniture);
  • it cannot be preceded by numbers.
  • liquids (water, oil, milk);
  • gas (air, oxygen, steam);
  • food (spaghetti, butter, soup, bread, cheese, cookery, food, meat, toast );
  • abstract ideas (chaos, advice, education, fun, gossip, hospitality, information, knowledge, luck, news, nonsense, patience, progress, strength, stuff );
  • subjects / fields (mathematics, art, politics, poetry, vocabulary);
  • mass nouns (hair, transportation, furniture, grass, money);
  • grain and powder (sugar, rice, sand);
  • natural phenomena (rain, snow, darkness, lightning, sunshine, thunder);
  • sports (football, chess, poker);
  • activities (reading, swimming, working, dancing, laughter, leisure, shopping, smoking, spelling, work);
  • feelings (sadness, anger, courage, happiness, jealousy);
  • states of being (adulthood, power, sleep, stress, safety, stupidity, violence, wealth).
  • Concrete and abstract nouns; collective nouns

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what type of noun is essay

Home / Guides / Grammar Guides / Nouns: What’s in a Name?

Nouns: What’s in a Name?

With a name that means, literally, ‘to name’, it’s pretty impossible to imagine the English language—or any language—without the noun. But while we use them constantly to provide clarity and identify the things that we’re talking or writing about, this hugely essential word type still has some surprises up its sleeve. This guide should give you a deeper understanding of this seemingly simple element of language, and allow you to use them correctly in your work. You can also check out this  useful reference  to consolidate your learning. If you’re currently working on a paper and would find a quick and easy grammar check useful, upload your essay for free at EasyBib.com. You can also use our fantastic citation tool to help cite your sources using popular styles such as MLA and  APA format .

Guide Overview

  • What is a noun?
  • Controversy and crossover
  • Where the magic happens
  • Phrase or clause?
  • Types of nouns list
  • Can you count it?
  • Good and proper
  • Getting possessive
  • A blessing of unicorns
  • Friendly compounds
  • The pronoun takeover
  • Grammar help is here!

What is a Noun?

At first glance, the noun definition is fairly straightforward—they’re naming words used to refer to a person, place, thing or idea. They’re arguably the most important element of any sentence, as they’ll usually be its subject. They can also be the direct object of a sentence. Or the indirect object. Or the object of the  preposition . And they can do much more besides that. So you get the idea that we’d find it very difficult to communicate without these superstars of the grammar world!

Controversy and Crossover

As they’re so important, the question ‘what is a noun?’ has been debated and discussed at length by linguists and grammar experts, often sparking some disagreement about the definition. Some feel that to define them as “naming words” is far too simplistic, as they’re also used to reference abstract and intangible concepts, feelings and activities such as  birth, sport, joy, cookery  and  technology . There’s also huge crossover with other elements of language. For example: Rain

  • Verb — to rain
  • Name of weather type — rain
  • Adjective — red
  • Name of color — red
  • As an  adverb  — angrily
  • As an adjective — angry
  • Name of a feeling — anger

Because this single word type encompasses so many different things, some linguists feel that the definition should be narrowed. However, for now, we’re happy to stick with the generalization that it’s a naming word. For more on the various definitions of different parts of the English language, check out this  useful link .

Where the Magic Happens

Although it can lead to confusion, the fact the noun is multi-functional is part of its charm. Let’s take a look at some of the jobs that these hard-working words can perform in a sentence. Subject:  the subject of the sentence, i.e., someone or something performing the action of the  verb .

  • Example:  Harry  is angry.

Direct object:  the direct object of the sentence, i.e., someone or something who receives the action of the verb.

  • Example: Ashley baked  Noah  a cake.

Object of the preposition:  the object of the prepositional phrase.

  • Example: Ashley baked a cake on  Sunday .

Subject complement:  follows a linking verb.

  • Example: Ashley is a  teacher .

Object complement:  follows a direct object to rename or modify it.

  • Example: She named her dog  Benji .

Appositive:  immediately follows another to add more information.

  • Example: Her dog,  Benji , is black.

Modifier:  acts as an  adjective  to modify another noun.

  • Example: A  black  dog.

Phrase or Clause?

In addition to your run of the mill single naming words, you can also use a noun clause or phrase to name or identify a person, object, thing, place or idea. A phrase has a naming word as its head word but may also include other kinds of words. For example:

  • Head word  — car/cars
  • Determiner  — My car
  • Determiner and adjective  — My red car
  • Quantifier  — Some cars
  • Quantifier and adjective  — Some red cars
  • In a sentence  —  My red car  is very old. ( My red car  is the phrase that identifies which car we are talking about.)

Caution! Don’t confuse a phrase with a compound, i.e., two or more words together to create a stand-alone common or proper noun with a meaning of its own (more on compounds later!). A clause is a dependent clause (doesn’t make sense alone) that performs the naming function in a sentence. It usually contains a subject and a verb, but may not necessarily contain a naming word. For example:

This weekend we can do  whatever you want .

Types of Nouns List

There are multiple types of naming words to get a grip on, and plenty of crossovers between categories too—just to keep things interesting! For example:

  • You can have a mass, abstract, common name.
  • Or a singular, concrete, proper, compound, or possessive name (phew!).

Don’t worry! This should become clearer as we work through the different categories in turn. If you’d like to do some more in-depth reading on the subject, you can  find more info  online.

Singular or Plural

You can have singular or plural nouns, with regulars keeping things nice and simple with the addition of  s  or  es .

  • Car — cars
  • Book – books
  • Zoo — zoos
  • Box — boxes
  • Dish — dishes
  • Hero — heroes

However, there are lots of rule-breaking irregulars thrown into the mix to complicate matters.

  • Man — men
  • Person — people
  • Sheep — sheep
  • Elf — elves
  • Fish — fish
  • City — cities

Concrete vs Abstract

As noted earlier, these debate-sparking naming words can be difficult things to define. So it can help to think of them as either concrete or abstract. Concrete nouns are the simpler of the two. They’re tangible things that can be detected by the senses. For example:

  • You can touch, see and smell a  flower .
  • You can hold a  pencil .
  • You can see your friend  Emily .

Abstract nouns are far trickier to pin down—both literally and metaphorically speaking!

  • You can’t hold  anger  or  space  or  childhood .

However, some people might argue that you can identify some abstracts with your senses. For example:

  • You can see an expression of  anger .
  • You can sense  fresh air .

So it might be more helpful to think of them as something that you can’t physically hold, i.e., concepts, ideas, experiences, qualities and feelings.

Can You Count It?

Naming words can either be  count  or  noncount . Count type doesn’t tend to give you much trouble—they’re, as the name suggests, something that can be counted. Noncount type (also known as mass nouns), however, are a whole different ball game! These rebellious words are definitely the evil twin of the two, as they defy several of the usual rules of grammar and, if you’re not careful, can cause chaos and confusion. Count:  something that can be counted, e.g.,  books, people, cars. Simple! Noncount (Mass):  something that can’t be counted (often because it’s an abstract concept), e.g.,  air, red, peace.  Or an aggregation of people or things that are lumped together as a whole, like  luggage, information,  or  salt. Not quite so simple! Caution! Be careful not to confuse noncounts with collectives, words which are used to name a collection of people or things (e.g.,  group, herd, bundle ). An easy way to test whether a word is noncount or collective is:

  • Noncounts don’t follow indefinite articles ( a  and  an ).
  • Noncounts don’t  usually  have a plural form.

For example, you don’t have  a luggage  or  luggages .

An Awkward Bunch

Despite the fact that they often represent an aggregation of people or things, noncounts can be a rather anti-social and awkward word type! They like to stand alone, without an indefinite article:

Music  can help you relax.

Not ‘ a music  can help you relax.’

I sprinkled  salt  on my food.

Not ‘I sprinkled  a salt  on my food.’ However, they can sit nicely with a  determiner  or quantifier instead.

  • Determiner  —  The music  was loud.
  • Quantifier  — I sprinkled  some salt  on my food.

In fact, some quantifiers only work with noncounts. For example:

  • A little  salt
  • Not much  information
  • A bit of  music

However, we would never say:

  • A little  books
  • Not much  cars
  • A bit of  flowers

The Singular or Plural Conundrum

Another quirk of the noncount is that, even when it represents an aggregation or group of things, it can still count as singular for grammatical purposes. For example:

The  luggage  is  heavy.  It  filled the trunk of the car. This  information  is  useful.  It  has helped me with my paper.

Even if a noncount appears to take a plural form with an  s  on the end, don’t be fooled! It may still be classed as grammatically singular. For example:

Politics  is a  difficult  subject  to study. I find  it  hard to grasp. The  news  is  on at 10 pm.  It’s  on for an hour.

On the flip side, some noncounts are grammatically plural. For example:

My  clothes  are  wet. The  scissors  are  sharp. His  manners  were  fantastic.

However, these go against the grain of plurals by not mixing well with numbers—we never say five clothes or six scissors!

Enumerating a Noncount

These awkward noncounts on the whole don’t mix well with numbers, although there are sneaky tactics that you can sometimes employ to enumerate them. These include:

  • Grammatically plural  — if concrete, add  a pair of , e.g., a pair of  scissors .
  • Grammatically singular  — if concrete, add  a piece of , e.g., a piece of  cutlery .
  • Singular and plural  — both concrete and abstract noncounts can be enumerated by adding an indefinite adjective (quantifier), e.g.,  any, some, less, much .

For example:

  • Pass me  some  cutlery .
  • I don’t have  any  scissors .
  • It contains  more  information .

Fewer vs Less

A quick note on fewer versus less as these are indefinite adjectives (quantifiers) that often trip people up!

  • Fewer  — used for count type, e.g., I have  fewer   books  than Sarah.
  • Less  — used for non-count type, e.g., I have  less   money  than Sarah.

Good and Proper

A proper noun is used to name very specific people, places, things and ideas. As their ‘proper’ title suggests, they’re formal names and, as such, deserve capitalization. Examples include:

  • People  —  Sarah, Jack, Mrs. Smith, Prince George, Father Brown, Beethoven
  • Specific places  —  America, Europe, Paris, George Street, Roman Empire, Times Square
  • Natural and man-made landmarks  —  River Nile, Central Park, Eiffel Tower, Empire State Building, Mount Etna
  • Religions and related words  —  Christianity, The Bible, God, Allah, Buddhism
  • Races and nationalities  —  African American, Russian, White, Eskimo, Japanese
  • Languages  —  French, Spanish, Chinese, English
  • Periods in history  —  Stone Age, Middle Ages
  • Events  —  Olympic Games, Coachella, Wimbledon, Rio Carnaval, Oktoberfest
  • Days, months and holidays  —  Sunday, Friday, June, October, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day  (note that the seasons are, somewhat contentiously, classed as common)
  • Organizations, charities and businesses  —  New York Police Department (NYPD), Harvard University, Microsoft, Red Cross, Walmart, Forbes
  • Product brand names  —  Tresemme, Adidas, Apple, Coca-Cola
  • Well-known documents and acts  —  Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, Magna Carta, Slavery Abolition Act 1833
  • Names of specific things and works  —  Hope Diamond, Mona Lisa, Symphony No. 5, Star Wars, War and Peace
  • Titles of publications and courses  —  The Washington Post, Introduction to Computer Science
  • They can be singular  —  Sally, Australia, Picasso, iPad
  • Or plural  —  the Smiths, the Rockies, the Americas, two iPads

From Proper to Common

Sometimes, they bend the rules to put themselves into a ‘common’ context. For example:

I made a mistake of  Titanic  proportions.

This is taken to mean a big mistake and isn’t literally referencing the Titanic ship.

I’m an  Einstein  when it comes to science.

Here Einstein is taken to mean a person who is smart, rather than referencing the man himself specifically. Similarly, over time, some have developed common ‘spin-off’ words. For example:

  • Famous porcelain from   China  — a china cup (note, not a China cup)
  • Coca-Cola  — coke (to describe a generic cola drink, not necessarily the Coca-Cola brand)

The Humble Common Noun

Common nouns  give a name to a general type of person, thing, object, place, concept or feeling. They’re not ‘formal’ names and, as such, they don’t demand capitalization. Examples include:

  • People  —  man, woman, girl, boy, vicar, teacher, children
  • Places  —  city, beach, library, street, garden
  • Things  —  tiger, leg, sleep, beard
  • Objects  —  watch, cake, shoe, ball
  • Concepts  —  peace, justice, talent, religion
  • Feelings  —  anger, joy, love, envy

In many cases, both a common and proper noun can be applied to the same thing. For example:

  • A  Baby Ruth  (proper) is a  chocolate bar  (common).
  • Rihanna  (proper) is a popular  singer  (common) in the US.
  • Mrs. Smith  (proper) is a  teacher  (common).
  • Benji  (proper) is a  dog  (common).
  • The  Nile  (proper) is a  river  (common).

Of course, you can define proper noun words as having a far narrower application as they can only apply to one very specific thing. Common noun examples have a much wider application—hence their label as ‘common’! For example:

There are thousands of  singers  (common) in the world, but there’s only one  Taylor Swift (proper).

When a Commoner Becomes Proper

Occasionally, a commoner can move up the ranks to become proper—gaining that all-important capitalization along the way. This usually happens when a word becomes synonymous over time with a very specific type of thing. For example, a  parka jacket  depicts a type of long, all-weather coat. But you could argue that the term  Parka  is so synonymous with a very specific type of jacket that it should be classed as proper. This is definitely one for the grammar experts to slog out between themselves!

Getting Possessive

Possessive nouns are usually followed by another naming word, indicating that the second thing ‘belongs’ to the first. There are different ways to indicate this possession, depending on the word in question. These can become confusing, so let’s look at them in turn. Singular possessives  are usually indicated with ‘s. For example:

  • the  girl’s  coat
  • Emma’s  car
  • the  city’s  main landmark

As are  plural possessives  that don’t end in  s . For example:

  • the  men’s  bathroom
  • children’s  toys

In the case of a  plural possessive  that ends in  s , you simply need to add an  apostrophe (‘). For example:

  • the  girls’  coats
  • the  Smiths’  house
  • the  tigers’  pen
  • the  computers’  manufacturer

When we come to  singular possessives  that end in  s , the waters get a little bit muddier. The most popular method used to form a singular possessive is to add  ‘s , as detailed above. For example:

  • James’s  book
  • the  bus’s  engine

However, just adding the  apostrophe  is also commonly accepted. For example:

  • James’  book
  • the  bus’  engine

The Importance of the Apostrophe

You’ll notice that subtle differences in your sentence structure can completely alter its meaning, so it’s important to get your grammar on point. For example:

  • the girl’s coat  — belonging to one particular girl
  • the girls’ coat  — a coat designed to be worn by a girl
  • the girl’s coats  — more than one coat belonging to one particular girl)
  • the girls’ coats  — a group of coats belonging to a group of girls

If you find yourself struggling to figure out where the apostrophe needs to go, why not run a free grammar check on your essay with EasyBib Plus? You can also use EasyBib.com to help cite the sources that you use when conducting  research  and writing your papers . The handy online tool can create citations in the popular APA and  MLA format , plus  more styles  including Chicago/Turabian. Simply find out which style of citation you need to use (ask your professor or lecturer) and let EasyBib Plus help you create them the easy way.

A Blessing of Unicorns

A collective noun is a name given to a collection or group of things. Although they represent more than one, they are usually classed as grammatically singular (in American English). For example:

  • The  pride  of lions made  its  way to water.
  • The  cast  of actors collected  its  award.
  • The  class  of students  was  dismissed early.

They can often stand-alone, if the context makes it clear what collection or group of things is being referred to. For example:

  • We followed the  herd  on safari.
  • I got the  cast  to sign my autograph book.
  • The  class  went on its field trip.

But be careful with this, as they can be used to represent very different things. For example:

  • flock  of tourists  or  flock  of birds  **  cluster  of spiders* or  cluster  of stars

So saying “I stared open-mouthed at the  cluster  before me” could have two very different meanings—you might be staring in wonder or staring in horror! Some collective nouns have developed a more general or colloquial meaning. For example, you get a  bunch  of flowers or a  bunch  of bananas. However,  bunch  is also used more generally to denote ‘several’ or ‘lots’. For example:

  • I saw a  bunch  of people that I knew.
  • Thanks a  bunch .

Kooky Collectives

Collectives are one of the quirkiest word types in the English language and include some unusual naming words. For instance, it’s difficult to imagine where the examples below came from. For example:

  • A  shiver  of sharks
  • A  quiver  of cobras
  • A  blush  of boys
  • A  disguising  of tailors
  • A  drunkship  of cobblers
  • A  worship  of writers
  • A  nest  of rumors

Friendly Compounds

Compound nouns consist of two or more words that have come together to form a new word with its own meaning. These are words that have decided they don’t want to stand-alone—they can work better together with another word! Both proper and common words can be compounded, and within these compounds are three sub-types. Proper

  • Closed  —  PlayStation, YouTube
  • Hyphenated  —  Coca-Cola, Chick-fil-A
  • Open Spaced  —  New York, Ritz Carlton Hotel
  • Closed  —  football, textbook
  • Hyphenated  —  mother-in-law, well-being
  • Open Spaced  —  bus stop, swimming pool

Wal-Mart Or Walmart?

Fun fact! Some popular brands have dropped their hyphens in recent years. For example, Wal-Mart switched to Walmart in 2009. This could possibly be because hyphenated domain names can cause issues for a brand’s online presence. Brands now have a whole host of digital considerations that simply weren’t on the table when they first decided on a name.

The Pronoun Takeover

While both concrete and abstract noun words are undeniably super useful and essential parts of the English language, they can be a bit much at times. Especially when you’re referring to the same thing several times in a sentence or section. For example:

Sally  loves  Fanta .  Sally  drinks  Fanta  every day.

This is where pronouns come in handy. These often small but ever so mighty words have the power to replace names and make your sentences flow much better. For example:

Sally  loves  Fanta .  She  drinks  it  every day.

This works for both proper and common types.

  • The  Empire State Building  (proper) is very tall.  It  stands at 443m.
  • Sally  (proper) loves  chocolate  (common).  She  eats  some  every day.
  • My  dog  (common) has a red  ball  (common).  He  likes to chase  it .

The antecedent nouns give a reference point for the pronouns.

Is I a Noun or a Pronoun?

Commonly used ‘people’ pronouns include  he, she, me, his  and  hers . However, there’s some debate as to the word  I . While  I  is commonly accepted as a first person  pronoun , it may not follow the usual antecedent rule. For example, if you were Sally, you wouldn’t write:

Sally  loves Fanta.  I  drink it every day.

Instead you’d simply write:

I  love Fanta.  I  drink it every day.

I  is also classed as a naming word in the following contexts:

  • I  — the name of a letter of the alphabet.
  • I  — the subject or object of self-consciousness, i.e. the ego.

This guide should hopefully have answered lots of naming word questions for you, such as ‘what is a possessive noun?’, but if you’re still struggling you can  learn more here . The list of nouns can be difficult to remember, for the simple fact that there are so many different categories and variations of these naming words. People, objects, places, ideas and feelings are things that don’t seem to have much in common—yet they all have names, which lumps them grammatically into the same (very large!) category.

Grammar Help is Here!

If you’d like to check your grammar, EasyBib Plus can help. Simply upload your paper and let EasyBib Plus do the hard work! You can also use the EasyBib Plus  plagiarism checker  to ensure that you’ve cited your sources. We have other grammar pages besides this one, too. Check out two tricky parts of speech:  conjunction  and  interjection . Use the handy online toolkit at EasyBib Plus to check for unintentional plagiarism and grammatical errors, and feel more confident that you won’t drop unnecessary marks on avoidable mistakes.

Nouns starting with A-Z

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A pronoun is used in place of a noun. Different forms are used to show person, number, gender, and case. There are personal, interrogative, indefinite, demonstrative, and reflexive pronouns.

  • A personal pronoun refers to one or more individuals or things. Personal pronouns may be in the nominative, objective or possessive case.

* see reverse side of this handout, “Pronoun/antecedent agreement”

For example:                 I took my sister to her doctor.

                                    She gave us a new table for our kitchen.

  • An interrogative pronoun is used to ask a question. Interrogative pronouns include: who , whom , whose , what , and which .

For example:                 Who left the light on?

                                    Which book is yours?

  • A relative pronoun introduces a relative clause, relating groups of words to nouns or other pronouns.

For example:                 Matt was the one who built the picnic table.

                                    The house, which has a garden in bloom, is very inviting.

  • An indefinite pronoun refers to a general person or thing. Singular indefinite pronouns include: one, each either, neither, everyone, no one, anybody, somebody, nobody, everybody, anyone, and someone . Plural indefinite pronouns include: several, both, many, and few . 

For example:                 No one has a good idea for the workshop. (singular)

                                    Many go on vacation in August. (plural)             

The indefinite pronouns some, none, all, most, and any can be singular or plural depending on the meaning of the sentence.

For example:                 Some of the work is done. (singular)

Some of the marks come off easily. (plural)

  • A demonstrative pronoun identifies or points out a noun. The demonstrative pronouns include: that, this, these, those, and such .

For example:                 This is more expensive than that .

                                    These are my favorites, not those .

  • A reflexive pronoun refers to a noun and provides emphasis or shows distinction from others. Reflexive pronouns are formed with the suffixes –self and –selves .

For example:                 Bianca made the cake by herself .

                                    Erin and Renee tried to occupy themselves when work was slow.

Pronoun and antecedent agreement

 Your meanings will be clearer if your pronouns “agree” in person and number with their antecedents, which are the words that the pronouns replace or the words they refer to.

Pronoun and antecedent do not agree:    Students should be careful to avoid plagiarism in her writing.

Pronoun and antecedent agree:             Students should be careful to avoid plagiarism in their writing.

In some cases, “they” functions as a singular pronoun to refer to a person whose gender you do not know or whose preferred pronouns are they/them/theirs. For example:

A student should be careful about checking grammar in their writing.

  • Antecedents joined by the word and take plural pronouns.

For example:                 Lisa and Tracy are writing their papers.

  • Use a singular pronoun to refer to two or more singular antecedents joined by the words or or nor .

For example:                 Ben or James will read his essay.

  • When there is more than one type of antecedent – a singular and a plural – joined by the words or or nor , the pronoun agrees with the closest antecedent.

For example:                 The teacher or the students will have their way.

                                          The students or the teacher will have her way.

Vague pronoun reference

In conversation, the prounouns it and they are often used to make vague reference to people and situations. In writing, more precise identification increases clarity..

Vague:                          The history test was made up of multiple-choice questions. It disturbed us.

Precise :                       The history test was made up of multiple-choice questions. This failure to evaluate students’ analytic abilities disturbed us.

Last updated 11/19/2020

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