Nouns are described as words that refer to a person, place, thing, event, substance, quality, quantity, etc. The grammatical categories associated with nouns are number, gender and case. There are different types of nouns.

Abstract Noun

An abstract noun is a noun which refers to ideas, qualities, and conditions – things that cannot be seen or touched and things which have no physical reality.

    • truth
    • danger
    • happiness
    • time
    • friendship
    • sleep

Abstract nouns refer to abstract objects; that is, ideas or concepts. While this distinction is sometimes exclusive, some nouns have multiple senses, including both concrete and abstract ones; consider, for example, the noun art, which usually refers to a concept but which can refer to a specific artwork in certain contexts. In English, many abstract nouns are formed by adding noun-forming suffixes to adjectives or verbs.

    • happiness
    • circulation
    • serenity

Concrete Noun

A concrete noun is a noun which refers to people and to things that exist physically and can be seen, touched, smelt, heard or tasted.

    • dog
    • building
    • coffee
    • tree
    • rain
    • boy
    • Delhi

Concrete nouns are of four types: common, proper, collective and material.

Common Noun

A common noun is a noun that refers to people or things in general.

    • boy
    • country
    • bridge
    • city
    • birth
    • day
    • happiness

Proper Noun

A proper noun is a name that identifies a particular person, place, or thing.

    • Steven
    • Africa
    • Taj Mahal
    • Monday

In written English, proper nouns begin with capital letters.

Collective Noun

Collective noun refer to groups of people or things.

    • audience
    • family
    • government
    • team
    • jury

Material Noun

The material noun is a noun which can be measured or weighed but cannot be counted.

    • gold
    • water
    • iron
    • rice

Now, these things cannot be counted but are measured. Also, we make jewellery out of gold and pots from iron. Material nouns are considered singular hence, we use singular verbs (is, has) with them.

    • Gold has become expensive over the past couple of years.
    • Fish, I bought from the supermarket, is looking fresh.
    • Water is the basic need of life.

A noun may belong to more than one category. For example, happiness is both a common noun and an abstract noun, while Mount Everest is both a concrete noun and a proper noun.

Count and Mass Nouns

Countable and Uncountable nouns vary from language to language. In some languages, there are no countable nouns. In addition, some nouns that are uncountable in English may be countable in other languages.

Nouns can be either countable or uncountable. Countable nouns (or count nouns) are those that refer to something that can be counted. A Count Noun has a plural form and can be preceded by a, an, the.

    • A tiger is a fierce animal.
    • The tiger is a fierce animal.
    • An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

Uncountable nouns (or mass nouns) do not typically refer to things that can be counted and so they do not regularly have a plural form. It cannot be preceded by a, an, or one.

    • luggage
    • furniture
    • fun
    • advice
    • milk
    • laughter
    • information

Uncountable nouns differ from count nouns in precisely that respect. They cannot take plurals or combine with number words or the above type of quantifiers.

For example, it is not possible to refer to furniture as three furnitures. This is true even though the pieces of furniture present at a place could be counted. Thus the distinction between count and mass nouns should not be made in terms of what sorts of things the nouns refer to, but rather in terms of how the nouns present these entities.

Many nouns have both countable and uncountable uses.

    • Coffee is countable in He ordered a coffee, but uncountable in Would you like some coffee?
    • Work is uncountable in He has done much work today where work is countable in The works of Shakespeare are immortal.
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Devika Panikar has been teaching English Language and Literature for 14 years now. She is an Assistant Professor with the Directorate of Collegiate Education under the Government of Kerala. She teaches at the Government Colleges coming under this directorate and is now posted at the Department of English, H.H. The Maharaja’s Government College for Women, Thiruvananthapuram. This website is a collection of the lecture notes that she prepared by referring various sources, for her students’ perusal. It has been compiled here for the sake of future generations.

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