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16.1: Nouns

A noun is the part of speech that refers to persons, places, things, or ideas. Nouns appear after adjectives, after articles, as a subject of a sentence, as an object of a preposition, and as a direct or indirect object.

There are many different kinds of nouns.

  • Common nouns are any person, place, or thing. Common nouns are not capitalized unless they start a sentence or title.
    Example: city, policeman, desk.
  • Proper nouns are the name of a specific person, place, or thing. Proper nouns are capitalized. Personal names are the best examples of proper nouns.
    Example: Nicolas, Idaho, Daily News.
  • Collective nouns are used to name groups. Even when a collective noun is in the singular form, it can be used to refer to a group.
    Example: team, herd, jury

Nouns are either concrete or abstract.

  • Concrete nouns words that represent objects one can see, hear, touch, smell, or taste.
  • Abstract nouns are anything one cannot see, hear, touch, smell, or taste.
Types of Nouns Now, you label the nouns.

Tom = proper,

concrete table = common, concrete

honesty = abstract

desk = common, concrete

gaggle = collective

door = common, concrete

conscience = abstract

air =

store =

Stephen King =

fleet =

girl =

love =

floor =

Singular and Plural

In order to show whether a noun is singular or plural, change the noun’s spelling. A noun will take the plural inflection “-s” for most words in English. But, there might be irregular plural nouns as well. Some of the examples of irregular nouns are given below:

  • boy/boys
  • child/children
  • woman/women
  • man/men
  • syllabus/syllabi
  • ox/oxen
  • deer/deer

If you are unsure how to change a word into the plural form, check your dictionary.

Pronouns

A pronoun is a word that often replaces a noun. The word or group of words that a pronoun replaces or refers to is called the antecedent of the pronoun.

Example \(\PageIndex{1}\):

  • The dog is old. It walks slowly.
    In this sentence, the word “it” replaces “the dog.” Dog is the antecedent. The pronoun should always be near the antecedent it refers to.
  • Wow, that boy can throw a football. He must have thrown it 60 yards.
    In this sentence, the word “he” replaces “that boy.” Boy is the antecedent.

There are several types of pronouns: personal, possessive, intensive, reflexive, relative, interrogative, demonstrative, and indefinite.

  • Personal pronouns are those that refer to specific people or things: I, he, she, we, us, they.
    Example: After they finished shopping, they put the groceries in the trunk.
  • Possessive pronouns indicate ownership: My, mine, your, our, theirs.
    Example: My brother bought a red car.
  • Intensive pronouns always include a form of self and appear next to the antecedent.
    Example: The President himself called to congratulate me.
     An intensive pronoun can be removed from a sentence without damage. Use intensive pronouns sparingly, only to emphasize.
  • Reflexive pronouns always include a form of self and do not appear next to the antecedent.
    Example: We shopped ourselves to death.
  • Relative pronouns introduce subordinate clauses and function as adjectives.
    Example: The man who yelled at us to get off his lawn did not even own the property.
  • Interrogative pronouns introduce questions: who, which.
    Examples: Who was that? Who will help me? Which do you prefer?
  • Demonstrative pronouns point out specific persons, places, things or ideas: that, those, this, these.
    Example: This is my dog.
  • Indefinite pronouns refer to non-specific people or things: all, both, any, few, everyone, each, nobody, some, several, neither.
    Example: Several people cheered after the solo.

Exercise \(\PageIndex{1}\)

Identify the bold word per its pronoun type.
  1. Many cars were in Walmart’s parking lot on Christmas Eve. __________
  2. I like to walk in the park. _________
  3. I really want that last piece of pizza. _________
  4. I’m hoping my work ethic leads to a promotion. ____________
  5. Brad Pitt, himself, walked into the cafeteria. ____________
  6. Who is Brad Pitt? ______________
  7. Brad Pitt is the actor who starred in Interview with a Vampire. _________
  8. I’m paying back my car loan by myself. ____________

Tips on Noun, Pronoun, and Antecedent Use

  • The pronoun and its antecedent (the noun or pronoun to which the pronoun refers) should agree; they must both be singular or plural.
    Examples: My dog finished her food. (Both are singular) The dogs fought for their food. (Both are plural)
  • Collective nouns should be used as singular unless they are obviously plural.
    Example: The jury gave its verdict. 
  • Compound antecedents connected by and should be used as plural.
    Example: Jack and Jill are getting married.
  • Some antecedents are indefinite (anyone, each, everyone, nobody, somebody) and although imply a singular subject, can take they.
    Example: Somebody better take out the trash or they will be in trouble.
  • The antecedent should be clear. The following is incorrect.
    Example: When she set the picture on the glass table, it broke.
    By using “it” after two nouns, the reference is unclear. Which item broke? The picture or the table? When reading your writing, ask yourself these types of clarifying questions. If you are unclear as to which noun is the antecedent, it will be unclear for the reader as well. In the above case, the glass table would have broken since it was the noun referred to closest to the pronoun.

A special note on deciding whether to use we or us:

  • If you are unsure as to which pronoun to use, try omitting the antecedent. Or, look to see where the pronoun is being used.
    Example: We need a more affordable textbook. (We belongs on the subject side.) It makes much more sense to us. (Us belongs on the predicate side.)
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