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What Is a Noun - Examples, Definition & Types


A noun is a word that refers to a person (i.e. Adam), a place (i.e. Singapore), or a thing (i.e. cell phone). Nouns take several roles in sentences that are as follows as follows:

  • Subjects

  • Direct objects

  • Indirect objects

  • Subject complements (aka predicate nouns)

  • Object complements

  • Appositives

  • Modifiers

  • Compound words to join clauses


  • A cat

  • Maria

  • Shakespear

  • Their love

  • His singing

  • The Egyptian pyramids

  • The universe

Basic Use of Noun

Nouns name everything from the depths of the sea to the outskirts of the universe.

And “everything” that exists in the universe can be classified into three basic types; a person, a place, or a thing.

Let’s take a look at these types.

1. Persons

Nouns can name any person or entity such as:

  • David

  • The renowned English author, Charles Dickens

  • A boy

  • The president

However, animals are usually classified as “things,” and not “persons,” in English grammar. But sometimes, animals (especially those with a name) are treated as persons. So, nouns-for-persons can also name animals.


  • Simba fled his homeland when his uncle killed his father, King Mufasa.

  • I bought my cat a yarn ball and he loves playing with it.

  • People think our watchdog is dangerous, but he’s such a nice boy.

2. Places

Nouns can name any place such as a city, a country, a basketball court, or a restaurant.

Noun for a place can be the name of a specific place such as America or just a generic term like country.


  • Kashmir

  • Asia is the world's largest continent

  • A supermarket

  • I love this house, especially its hallway

3. Things

Nouns can also define things. In English grammar, “things” include inanimate objects (tangible things), abstract ideas, concepts, attributes, actions, processes, and imaginary things (intangible things). For instance, a shoe is a physical object, and love is an idea, so both are considered things.


  • A ball (ball is an object)

  • His hatred (hatred is an idea)

  • Force (force is a concept)

  • Our strength (strength is an attribute/quality)

  • Cooking great food (cooking is an action, food is an object)

Types of Noun

Various types of nouns exist in English. Here’s a comprehensive breakdown of them:

Proper Nouns

Proper nouns are particular names of a person, place, or thing, and are always capitalized, compared to common words like “city” and “girl”.


  • Abraham Lincoln

  • Paris

  • India

  • iPhone 15

Proper nouns usually don’t take the articles a/an & the. However, some proper nouns take the article the depending upon exceptions in English grammar, such as:

  • When talking about some exceptional place names and geographical regions defined in English grammar, such as mountain ranges (i.e., the Himalayas).

  • When pluralizing family names (i.e., the smiths)

  • When using a proper noun with an “of” phrase (i.e., the United States of America)

There are more exceptions. Writers need to learn about these exceptions and memorize them.

Furthermore, every noun can either be classified as a proper noun or a common noun.

Common Nouns

Compared to proper nouns, common nouns are generic words that refer to any person, place, or thing.


  • President of United States

  • A city in Italy

  • The forest

  • A cell phone

Unlike proper nouns, common nouns can be further classified into three types: Concrete, abstract, and collective.

Concrete Nouns

Concrete nouns, also called material nouns, refer to tangible objects; objects that can be perceived by our five senses. So, a concrete noun is anything that we can touch, see, smell, taste, or hear.


  • A table. (a table can be touched)

  • An image. (an image can be seen)

  • The beautiful scent of roses. (a scent can be smelled)

  • A plate of biryani. (biryani can be eaten)

  • A sound. (a sound can be heard)

  • Bodily pain. (bodily pain can be sensed physically, unlike emotional pain)

If something cannot be perceived by our five senses, such as emotional pain or distress, it is considered an abstract noun.

Moreover, concrete (and abstract) nouns can be further classified into countable or uncountable nouns.

  • Concrete countable nouns refer to tangible things that we can count, such as pencils, laptops, and buildings.


  • Space

  • Humans

  • Cars

  • Teeth

  • Sounds

  • Concrete Uncountable Nouns refer to tangible things that cannot be counted, rather, they are measured, such as water, rice, and clouds.


  • Space
  • Bacteria
  • Furniture
  • Fire
  • Sand

You may have noticed the noun “space” in both categories. This is correct; some nouns such as space can be used as both, countable nouns and uncountable nouns.

For instance, in the case of space as a countable noun, you can say, “There are only two spaces left in the car.”

And in the case of space as an uncountable noun, you can say, “Much space is needed for the luggage.”

Abstract Nouns

Abstract nouns refer to intangible things; objects that cannot be perceived by our five senses. So, an abstract noun is anything that we cannot touch, see, smell, taste, and hear.

  • Vibes (vibes are feelings or atmospheres that cannot be physically sensed)
  • Emotions (emotions are feelings that cannot be physically sensed)
  • Experience (experience is the knowledge or skill acquired through involvement in or exposure to something, which cannot be perceived physically)
  • Intelligence (intelligence is the ability to learn, understand, and apply knowledge. It has no physical form)
  • Information (information is data or knowledge communicated or received. It has no physical form)
  • Horse riding (horse riding is an action. It doesn’t have a physical appearance)

As mentioned, like concrete nouns, abstract nouns can be further classified into countable or uncountable nouns.

Abstract Countable Nouns

Abstract countable nouns are intangible ideas, concepts or things that can be counted.


  • Opinions
  • Experiences
  • Ideas
  • Emotions
  • Dreams

Abstract Uncountable Nouns

Abstract uncountable nouns are intangible ideas, concepts or things that cannot be counted.


  • Justice
  • Education
  • Health
  • Love
  • Happiness

Collective Nouns

Another classification of common nouns is collective nouns. A collective noun is the name of a group that ties particular things together.


  • Family
  • A Team
  • A Pack of wolves
  • A group of five thieves was out robbing people.
  • This pair of shoes is expensive.

Note how the last two examples “group of five” and “pair of shoes” use the singular verbs "was” and “is” respectively. This is because collective nouns denote a “collection” of things. A collection or group of something is a single entity, so it uses a singular verb.

Countable & Uncountable Nouns

Countable nouns, also known as count nouns, are the ones that we are able to count as individual objects.


  • Four people
  • Some crows
  • A lot of celebrities
  • 8 Apples

Countable nouns can be used with modifiers such as a, an, the, a lot, a few, some and numbers as in “four people.”

Uncountable nouns, also known as mass nouns, nouns are the ones that we are unable to count as individual objects. Uncountable nouns can include intangible things, substances, and collection of things.


  • Love
  • Air
  • Knowledge
  • Traffic

Uncountable nouns cannot be expressed with the modifier a/an. You never say “A traffic,” “An air,” or “A knowledge.”

These nouns are rather expressed with words that express a general quantity such as some and few. Countable nouns with “of” phrases, such as acts of, pieces of, and bits of, can also be used to express uncountable nouns. The modifier the is also used to enhance the meaning of these nouns.

  • Two traffic jams
  • Few pieces of information
  • Acts of kindness
  • The atmosphere was amusing
  • Bits of advice

Singular & Plural Nouns

A noun can be either singular or plural.

A singular noun refers to an individual person, place, or thing, and uses singular verbs (i.e, is, am, was).


  • Jackson
  • Cat
  • A flower
  • Tower
  • A table was moving on its own.

Plural nouns refer to multiple persons, places, or things, and use plural verbs (i.e., are, were). Plural nouns are usually formed by adding -s or -es at the end of the singular nouns.


  • Cats
  • Two flowers
  • Multiple towers
  • All the other tables were at rest.

Proper nouns are mostly singular. However, at times, they can be pluralised by adding -s or -es. If the noun ends with s, x, or z, then -es is usually added.


  • The Petersons are here.

Appositive Nouns

Appositive nouns are nouns that come after other nouns in order to define them.


  • My uncle George has invited me to dinner.

The second noun can be referred to as in apposition with the first noun. In the above sentence, the noun George is in apposition with the noun uncle; it gives additional information and specifies the noun preceding it.

Attributive Noun / Modifier Noun

Certain nouns can also be used as attributes or modifiers.

Attributive nouns, also called modifier nouns, act as adjectives for other nouns and modify their meaning.


  • The duel champion
  • A staff manager
  • A cooking expert
  • A book club
  • Speech master


Gerunds are verbs acting as nouns. When verbs are in their present participle form (they end in -ing) they become nouns.


  • Swimming is good for your health.
  • Cooking was once my hobby.
  • Occasional vibing is necessary.
  • Traveling & hiking are expensive.

Here, swimming, cooking, vibing, traveling, and hiking, all are verbs acting as nouns. Note how they are the subjects of the sentences and how the helping verbs (is, was, are) agree with them.

Compound Nouns

Compound nouns are formed by combining two or more words. The words used can be nouns or other words.

Some words in compound nouns are combined without any spaces, with hyphens, and with spaces (i.e., post office).

Examples of compound nouns without spaces:

  • Notebook (note+book)
  • Toothpaste (tooth+paste)

Examples of compound nouns with hyphens:

  • Father-in-law
  • T-shirt

Some compound nouns like “well-being” may be written without hyphens (well being) depending upon the style guide being followed, though most commonly it is written with hyphens.

Examples of compound nouns with spaces:

  • Coffee shop
  • Tuc shop

In compound nouns, individual words don’t stand alone. They combine and form a noun that gives a meaning different from the meanings of the individual words. For instance, the word “coffee shop” neither means coffee, nor does it mean shop; it means a shop that sells coffee.

Common Mistakes

Nouns can be challenging to understand, not because they are difficult to comprehend, but because of how diverse they are, and the exceptional rules surrounding them in English grammar.

Mistakes are okay if a person learns from them. So, here are some common mistakes when using nouns to help you learn and avoid them in your work:

  • Not capitalizing the first letter of a proper noun: The first letter of a proper noun is always capital.
  • Capitalizing the first letter of common nouns: Common nouns do not begin with a capital letter, unless: it occurs as the first word in a sentence or it occurs in a title.
  • Using gerunds as verbs: Gerunds are present participle verbs, which is why they can look like verbs. But they are nouns, and they act as nouns. So, gerunds cannot be used as verbs.
  • Using the article “a/an” & “the” with proper nouns: Though, there are many exceptions, most proper nouns such as Sara, don’t take the article “the.”

If you have a hard time correcting noun mistakes, a grammar checker tool can help you correct all your grammatical errors.


A noun is a word that refers to a person, place or thing. A thing can be any inanimate, tangible or intangible object. Noun has varying types in English as discussed above.

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