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Overview of Nouns

A noun is a person, place, thing, animal, or an idea.
  • Michael likes Sally.
  • New York City is big.
  • The cookies are on the table.
  • The lion is sleeping.
  • Happiness is the most important thing in life.
Almost every sentence or question in English will have a noun (sometimes the noun will be a pronoun). We use nouns in many different ways. In this lesson, we will briefly go over the most important things that we must know about nouns. In the following lessons, we will cover these points in more detail.

1. Nouns can be the subject or object of a sentence or question.
  • The dog ate chocolate .
    (The dog is the subject and chocolate is the object.)

  • The boys are playing.
  • The ball hit the boy .
2. Connect two nouns with "and", "but", "or".
  • I like apples and bananas .
  • She has time, but no money .
  • We can sleep at home or at a hotel .
3. If there are more than 2 nouns, then separate the nouns with commas (,) and put "and", "but" "or" between the last two nouns.
  • I have a dog, a cat, 2 hamsters, and a turtle .
  • She likes movies, fantasy books, and the beach .
  • Henry has a ball, a glove, a tent, a phone, but no water .
  • Carly will buy shoes, a shirt, or a dress .
4. There are two kinds of nouns – common nouns and proper nouns.

Proper nouns are the names of people, places, companies, works of art or monuments, days of the week, months, holidays, etc. In English we capitalize the first letter of a proper noun (the first letter will be a big letter). Here are some examples.

JonSallyItalyBrazil
Coca-ColaNikethe Mona Lisathe Eiffel Tower
MondaySaturdayJuneSeptember
ChristmasRamadanAsiaEurope

Common nouns are everything else. They are just one of many. The first letter of common nouns is not capital unless it is the first word of a sentence.
  • I like movies .
  • Movies are good.
Here are some examples of common nouns.

booktablecomputercat
treerocksandshirts
glassescupspizzawater

5. Many nouns can be singular or plural. Singular means one. Plural means more than one. We can make most nouns plural by adding ‘-s' or ‘-es' to the end of the noun.
  • one book / 20 books
  • an apple / four apples
  • a dish / 100 dishes
  • 1 bench / 4 benches
There are irregular plural nouns that change differently. For example,
  • 1 man / 3 men
  • one child / four children
  • a knife / 5 knives
  • a strawberry / 97 strawberries
There are also some nouns that are always plural. Here are some examples.

glassespantsclothes

There are many rules and this can be a little hard at first for English learners. This can be difficult and annoying at first, but if you study and review these words consistently, then it will become easy quickly.

6. There are two kinds of common nouns – count nouns and non-count nouns. These are sometimes called countable nouns and uncountable nouns.

Countable nouns are nouns that can be counted (1 apple, 2 apples, 3 apples, etc.). If a noun is countable then it can be singular or plural. We studied this in #5.
  • I have one book. / I have 5 books .
  • She has a brother. / She has 3 brothers.
  • There is one library in town. / There are two libraries in town.
Non-count nouns are things that cannot be counted or are not easily counted. Here are some examples.

waterricelove
happinessairbutter

Many times, we can change a non-count noun into a count noun by adding a countable object.
  • I have water.
Water is a non-count noun in this sentence.
  • I have 2 bottles of water.
Since "bottle" is a count noun, we can use it to apply a countable unit to water.

There are also many exceptions. Some nouns can be both count or non-count depending on the sentence.
  • I have coffee.
  • I have 2 coffees.
In the second sentence, we are using "2 coffees" as "2 cups of coffee", but we have just left out the "cups of".

There are many exceptions like this.

This can be very difficult and frustrating for English learners. It takes practice and time to remember all of these.

7. We often use articles before nouns. Articles are a, an, and the.

"A" and "an" only go with singular nouns. You can always change "a/an" to "one". When we use "a" or "an" it means the noun is not special.
  • I have a book.
    (=I have one book.)

  • She has an apple.
    (=She has one apple.)
Use "an" before words that start with a vowel (a, e, i, o, u).
  • There is an alligator.
  • An elephant is drinking water.
Use "a" before words that start with a consonant (letters that are not a, e, i, o, u)
  • A cat is sleeping.
  • She has a car.
We can use "the" before any noun. We use "the" to show that the noun is special. We use it when we are talking about a particular thing.
  • Give me a book.
    (The book could be any book. It doesn't matter which book.)

  • Give me the book.
    (The speaker is talking about a special or particular book.)
This is also a difficult topic and we will cover it more in a later lesson.

7. Noun clauses are a group of words that take the place of a noun. They start with question words, if, or whether. If there is a noun in a sentence, then it is possible to replace it with a noun clause. Look at some examples.
  • I don't know Sally. (Noun)
  • I don't know where Sally went. (Noun clause)

  • I am thinking about my work. (Noun)
  • I am thinking about what to do next. (Noun Clause)
We can use noun clauses as a subject or object of a sentence. They can be in any verb tense. Here are some more examples.
  • What I like about you is your smile.
  • She doesn't know who will come.
  • They are looking forward to what they will do on their vacation.
  • I don't know if it rained yesterday.
Noun clauses are more advanced, but if you want to speak English then you must be able to use them well. They are used all the time by English speakers.

We covered the main things that we must know about nouns in this lesson, but we did not cover them in much detail. The following lessons will cover these topics in much more detail.

If you want to be an advanced or fluent English speaker, then you have to know everything that was covered in this lesson.

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