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Recognising the different types of nouns in English grammar will help to develop one’s ability to write and speak with precision.

Compound Nouns

Compound nouns are formed from two or more words. Most English compound nouns are noun phrases that include a noun modified by adjectives or noun adjuncts. Most English compound nouns that consist of more than two words can be constructed recursively by combining two words at a time. Combining science and fiction, and then combining the resulting compound with the writer, for example, can construct the compound, science fiction writer. Some compounds, such as salt and pepper or mother-of-pearl, cannot be constructed in this way.

Examples of Compound Nouns

    1. I took a beautiful photograph of the sunrise.
    2. The most violent criminals come from the underworld.
    3. The blackboard needed to be cleaned before class.
    4. I had eggs for breakfast.

Examples of Compound Nouns Which Take Different Forms

    1. I usually have ice cream for dessert (with spaces).
    2. I generally put all my pots in the greenhouse (without spaces).
    3. My mother-in-law visits the family regularly (with hyphens).
    4. The children love the merry-go-round in the park (with hyphens).
    5. Our children must do their homework before supper (without spaces).
    6. I usually meet my friends at the bus stop (with spaces).

Examples of Compound Nouns Formed From Different Components

    1. The family kicked the football in the park (noun + noun).
    2. The cars raced down the highway (adjective + noun).
    3. We eat bacon and eggs for breakfast (verb + noun).
    4. The sunrise was beautiful this morning (noun + verb).
    5. The onlookers were asked to leave the scene of the accident (preposition + noun).
    6. The rebels tried to overthrow the elected government (preposition + verb).
    7. The team blowup led to a vicious brawl (verb + adverb).

Possessive Nouns

A possessive noun is a noun that names who or what one owns or has possession of something. In most cases, for singular nouns to show that possession, we add an -‘s.

Examples of Possessive Nouns

    1. Rachel’s wedding is next week.
    2. The doctor’s coat was hanging in his office.
    3. The minister’s Bible was very old.
    4. The thief stole Jennifer’s handbag.
    5. The neighbour stood on the dog’s bowl and broke it.

Regular Plural Nouns

  • Most singular nouns are made plural by adding -s to the end of the singular form.
  • When a noun ends in a sibilant sound – /s/, /z/, /ʃ/, /ʒ/, /tʃ/ or /dʒ/ – the plural is formed by adding -es, or -s if the singular already ends in -e.
  • The plural form of some nouns that end in ‘f’ or ‘fe’ is made by changing the ending to -V(es).
  • When a noun ends in “o” preceded by a consonant, the plural in many cases is spelt by adding -es.
  • Nouns that end in ‘o’ preceded by a vowel are made plural by adding -s.
  • When the ‘y’ follows a consonant, changing ‘y’ to ‘i’ and adding -es.
  • When the ‘y’ follows a vowel, the plural is formed by retaining the ‘y’ and adding -s.

Collective Nouns

Collection nouns refer to a group, a collection of several people or things.

Examples of Collective Nouns

    1. The art class presented their paintings to the faculty.
    2. I gave my friend a pack of cards.
    3. The board of directors decided to purchase the business.
    4. The boy was attacked by a swarm of wasps.

Examples of Singular and Plural Verbs With Collective Nouns

    1. The cast is celebrating their success (singular verb).
    2. The cast has been practising their lines all day (plural verb).
    3. The cast members have been practising their lines (plural verb).
    4. The orchestra often plays at the carnival (singular verb).
    5. The orchestra has been practising their songs for months (plural verb).

Countable Nouns

Countable nouns can be counted whether singular or plural.

Examples of Countable Nouns

    1. I read three books a month for professional development.
    2. I take a variety of photographs when I am on location.
    3. I used several panels for the new fence.
    4. A herd of dogs attacked my neighbour.
    5. I had many candles on my twenty-first birthday cake.

Examples of Countable Nouns Preceded by a Number or Indefinite Article a/an

    1. My friend bought me a camera for my birthday.
    2. I take two tablets for a headache.
    3. My sister bought a computer from the electrical store.
    4. I eat an apple a day to keep the doctor away.
    5. I take two bottles of water with me when I go hiking.

Only countable nouns are preceded by a number or indefinite article a/an.

Non-Countable Nouns

Non-Countable nouns are singular and take singular verbs.

Examples of Non-Countable Nouns

    1. The neighbour took the garbage to the tip.
    2. I always help myself to some cheese.
    3. The clothing was delivered by mail.
    4. I put the water in the fridge.
    5. The patient was given oxygen.

Examples of Countable and Non-Countable Nouns in the Same Sentence

    1. I will put water (non-countable noun) on all the tables (countable noun) in the dining room.
    2. I will give rice (non-countable noun) to all the diners (countable noun) in the restaurant.
    3. Oxygen (non-countable) was given to seven patients (countable noun) during the crisis.
    4. Clothing (non-countable) was given to all the flood victims (countable noun).

The non-countable nouns cannot be preceded by a number or the indefinite article a/an.

Verbal Nouns

Verbal nouns are nouns derived from verbs. Verbal nouns are formed with a variety of suffixes.

Examples of Verbal Noun Formations

    1. arrive (verb) / arrival (noun)
    2. teach (verb) / teaching (noun)
    3. decide (verb) / decision (noun)
    4. destroy (verb) / destruction (noun)
    5. fly (verb) /flight (noun)

Examples of Verbal Nouns

    1. Teaching is a noble profession.
    2. The building caught fire in the middle of the night.
    3. His arrival surprised me.
    4. Jonathan’s decision surprised the board members.
    5. His return was well received.
    6. The flight was cancelled due to the pandemic.
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Devika Panikar
δάσκαλος (dáskalos) means the teacher in Greek. Devika Panikar has been teaching English Language and Literature since 2006. She is an Assistant Professor with the Directorate of Collegiate Education under the Government of Kerala. She teaches at the Government Colleges under this directorate and is now posted at the Government Law College, Thiruvananthapuram. This website is a collection of lecture notes she prepared by referencing various sources for her students’ perusal. It has been compiled here for the sake of future generations.