Nouns name things that are living and non-living, places and ideas. Since there are so many of them, they can be grouped in many different ways. Here are some general categories of nouns.
Most nouns refer to ordinary things and are called common nouns. Proper nouns refer to a specific thing, place, or idea and are always capitalized, like Thomas or Star Wars. If a noun can be experienced through your senses, it is concrete, like table or flower. If not, it is abstract, like happiness or freedom.
If a noun names something that can be counted, it is countable, like cars and rocks. If not, it is a mass noun, or uncountable, and examples would be air and butter. Collective nouns name a group of things or people, like gaggle or family.
Nouns function in sentences as subjects and objects. They can also modify by being possessive or an appositive. Sometimes, they act like an adjective, as in “water heater” where “water” modifies “heater.” They can also function as an adverb, as in “She went home” where “home” tells where she went.
A phrase is a group of words that have a special relationship and function as a unit in a sentence. They may contain nouns or verbs, but do not have a subject and a verb like clauses do. Let’s look at the different types of phrases and see what they do.
A prepositional phrase is very common in our language. It is made up of a preposition and an object of that preposition, which would be a noun or pronoun. It may have an adjective that will modify the object. Some examples are: in the woods, across the blue water, over the rainbow, in a faraway land, and for ten minutes. Prepositional phrases can function as adverbs, like in this sentence: We won the game without our best player. They can also act like an adjective, as in: Do you see the car with the black top?
An appositive phrase gives more information about a word that it follows, like: My goal, to become a classical pianist, is very possible. The phrase tells you more about the word “goal.”
Absolute phrases modify the entire sentence instead of one word, and contain a noun or verb, a participle, and modifiers. They are separated by commas and have a subject, but not a verb. Examples: She accepted the ribbon, her face beaming.
An infinitive phrase starts with the word “to” and has a verb. It functions as a noun, adverb, or adjective. Here’s an example: To watch him dance, you wouldn’t know he took lessons.
A gerund phrase starts with a verb that ends with an “ing.” These phrases function as a noun, as in: Lying to your boss is not a wise thing to do.
Participle phrases act as nouns and start with verbs that end with an “ed” or “ing.” Look at these two sentences. In “Working all night, he finished his proposal” the phrase modifies “he.” In this sentence, “The river, frozen over all winter, is now flowing” the phrase modifies “river”.
The last phrases we are looking at are the noun phrases. Noun phrases are simply a noun with modifiers. Noun phrases can act as adjectives, or as participle, infinitive, prepositional, or absolute phrases. Here are some examples for you to examine: