Nouns are words that refer to people, places, things, or ideas. Under the umbrella term, there are actually several types of nouns. Discover the major classifications of the different types of nouns in English, along with examples, so you can see these types of nouns in action.
Types of Nouns: An Easy Guide to the Different Forms
Common nouns refer to people, places, things, or ideas in general terms. Words like friend, state, shoe, or freedom are examples of common nouns.
Proper nouns are not general references. Instead, they name specific nouns. For example, the word "state" is a common noun. However, the names of specific states, such as Nebraska and California are proper nouns because they are the names of specific states. There are many other examples of proper nouns.
- Lisa and Edward went out to dinner at Ruby Tuesday.
- He graduated from Tuskeegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama.
- I have been to both The White House and Buckingham Palace
Concrete nouns can be perceived by at least one of our five senses. They are nouns that refer to things that exist physically and can be touched, seen, smelled, felt, or tasted.
- Can I pet your dog?
- Please pass the salt.
- Your sweater is made of such soft wool.
More theoretical concepts use abstract nouns to refer to them. Abstract nouns refer to concepts or feelings that cannot be experienced concretely or touched physically. Ideas, qualities or conditions like love, hate, power, and time are all examples of abstract nouns.
- All you need is love.
- There's so much hate for the new Star Wars trilogy.
- We must use this time wisely.
- Look at that gaggle of geese.
- There used to be herds of wild buffalo on the prairie.
- There is a crowd of kids is in the pool today.
- The team did a great job in the competition.
A compound noun contains two or more words that join together to make a single noun.
- Compound nouns can be two words written as one (closed form), such as softball and toothpaste.
- Words that are hyphenated (hyphenated form), such as six-pack and son-in-law are also compound nouns.
- Some pairs of separate words (open form), such as post office and upper class, that go together by meaning are compound nouns.
A singular noun refers to one person, place or thing.
- That house is where my brother lives.
- This meal was very delicious.
- I stayed at a hotel last night.
A plural noun refers to more than one person place or thing.
- I have lived in three different apartments in the last five years.
- I am planning to take at least two vacations this summer.
- I need to write three articles before Friday's deadline.
Possessive nouns demonstrate a person, place or thing's ownership of something. Like plural nouns, they typically end in an "s," but possessive nouns have an apostrophe before the "s." The best way to spot them is to look for an apostrophe.
- Melissa's imagination ran wild as she daydreamed about her trip to Ireland.
- Ireland's landscape is truly breathtaking.
- The puppy's favorite toy is the squeaky newspaper.
- There is a bike in that garage. (In this example, the word bike is singular because it refers to one bike that is sitting in a particular garage.)
- There are six bikes in that garage. (In this example, the plural noun bikes refers to more than one bike because it is being modified by the number six.)
- In that garage, there are several bikes. (Here, because the determiner "several" is used rather than a number, there is more than one bike but the quantity is unknown.)
On the other hand, some nouns are not countable. They can be referred to as uncountable, non-countable or mass nouns. Liquids and powders such as milk, rice, water, and flour are usually uncountable nouns. Other more abstract examples that cannot be counted would be air, freedom or intelligence. Uncountable nouns usually cannot take plural forms.
- The garage is full of clutter.
- I'm eating grits for breakfast.
- I can't wait to sink my toes in the sand at the beach.
Material nouns refer to materials or substances from which things are made. Consider the word "cotton." Cotton is an adjective when used in "cotton dress." However, cotton is a material noun when used to describe the crop that is used to make fabric.
- We use cotton from a local farm in our t-shirts.
- My wedding ring is made of platinum.
- Consuming protein leads to building muscle mass.
Words Acting Like Nouns
A few other types of words can function like nouns when they appear in sentences.
Personal pronouns take the place of nouns when referring to people, places or things, and therefore play the part of a noun in a sentence.
- Amy works at a flower shop. She enjoys her job.
- The Greeks invented democracy. They sought freedom and equality.
- Marley loves pepperoni pizza. The last slice of pizza is hers.
- Jennifer is paying for the tickets. Give the money to her.
- Things don't look good for John and Ray. The police are looking for them.
Gerunds are verbs that function as nouns. Sounds funny, right? They are a little funny because, at first glance, gerund examples appear to be verbs. In truth, they're acting as a noun. Here's an example:
- Do you mind my borrowing these shoes?
In this sentence, "mind" is the verb and "borrowing" is a noun, the direct object of the sentence. Anytime you spot a word ending in -ing, pause and take a good look at its place in the sentence.
Test Your Noun Knowledge
There are many types of nouns, each designed to serve a different purpose in a sentence. Test your knowledge with the practice items below.
Noun Types: Practice Items
Review the bold words in the sentences below and decide what type, or types, of noun each one is. Work through the questions on your own, then review the answers to see how you did.
- I'm planning a trip to Pennsylvania later this year.
- Your room is such a mess.
- Our countertops are made of granite.
- How many girls are enrolled in softball camp this year?
- I am looking forward to going to the beach.
- I have three children.
Noun Types: Answer Key
Check your work using the answer key below.
- proper noun
- uncountable noun or common noun (both are correct)
- material noun or uncountable noun (both are correct)
- plural noun or common noun (both are correct)
- common noun or singular noun (both are correct)
- plural noun, common noun or countable noun (all are correct)
Exploring Parts of Speech Beyond Nouns
Now that you know what the different types of nouns are, continue expanding your grammar expertise by getting to know other parts of speech. Once you've mastered nouns, the next logical step is to explore the different types of verbs. From there, you'll be ready to move on to discovering verb phrases and how to use them.