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  • The dog slept.
  • That is John.
  • This is the Alton police station.
  • The pay of the job is high.
  • Go there on Monday.
  • I like pumpkins.

A noun is a kind of word (see part of speech) that is usually the name of something such as a person, place, thing, quality, or idea. In English, nouns can be singular or plural.

Nouns often need a word called an article or determiner (like the or that). These words usually do not go with other kinds of words like verbs or adverbs. (For example, people do not say "I will the go to school" because go is a verb.) Adjectives can also describe nouns. In English, there are more nouns than any other kind of word.

Every language in the world has nouns, but they are not always used in the same ways. They also can have different properties in different languages. For example, in some other languages, nouns do not change for singular and plural, and sometimes there is no word for the.

Some examples of nouns in English are: time, people, way, year, government, day, world, life, work, part, number, house, system, company, end, party, information.

The history of the word noun

The word 'noun' comes from the Latin nomen meaning "name." Words like nouns were described in early days by the Sanskrit grammarian Pāṇini and ancient Greeks like Dionysios Thrax.

Uses of nouns

In English sentences, nouns can be used as a subject, object, or complement. They often come after prepositions, as the 'object of preposition'.

Nouns can sometimes describe other nouns (such as a soccer ball). When they do this, they are called modifiers or adjuncts.

There are also verb forms that can be used in the same way as nouns (such as 'I like running.) These are called verbals or verbal nouns, and include participles (which can also be adjectives) and infinitives.

Kinds of nouns and how they are ordered

Nouns are ordered into common nouns, and proper nouns. There are also pronouns. These have commonly been considered a different part of speech from nouns, but in the past some grammars have included them as nouns[1] as do many modern linguists.[2]

Proper nouns

A proper noun (also called proper name) is a name given to individual people, places, companies, or brands. Some examples of proper nouns are: London, John, God, October, Mozart, Saturday, Coke, Mr. Brown, Atlantic Ocean

Proper nouns begin with an upper case (capital) letter in English and many other languages that use the Roman alphabet. (However, in German, all nouns begin with an upper case letter.) The word "I" is really a pronoun, although it is capitalized in English, like a proper noun.

Some common nouns (see below) can also be used as proper nouns. For example, someone might be named 'Tiger Smith' -- even though he is not a tiger or a smith.

Common nouns

Common nouns are all other nouns that are not proper nouns. Sometimes the same word can be either a common noun or a proper noun, depending on how it is used; for example:

  • there can be many gods, but there is only one God.
  • there can be many internets (two or more networks connected together), but the largest internet in the world is the Internet.

Number and countability

In English and many other languages, nouns have 'number'. But some nouns are only singular (such as furniture, physics) and others are only plural (such as clothes, police). Also, some nouns are 'countable' (they can be counted, for example, one piece, two pieces) but others are not (for example, we do not say one furniture, two furnitures).


Nouns are words for things, and since things can be possessed, nouns can also change to show possession in grammar. In English, we usually add an apostrophe and an s to nouns to make them possessive, or sometimes just an apostrophe when there is already an s at the end, like this:

  • This is Sam. This is Sam's cat.
  • The woman's hair is long.
  • There are three cats. The cats' mother is sleeping.

How adjectives become nouns

Most adjectives become nouns by adding the suffix ness. Example: Take the adjective 'natural', add 'ness' to get 'naturalness', a noun. To see a list of 100 adjectives used in Basic English, click here

Plural Nouns

The plural form of most nouns is created simply by adding the letter s.

  • more than one snake = snakes
  • more than one ski = skis
  • more than one Barrymore = Barrymores

Note that some dictionaries list "busses" as an acceptable plural for "bus." Presumably, this is because the plural "buses" looks like it ought to rhyme with the plural of "fuse," which is "fuses." "Buses" is still listed as the preferable plural form. "Busses" is the plural, of course, for "buss," a seldom used word for "kiss."

There are several nouns that have irregular plural forms. Plurals formed in this way are sometimes called mutated (or mutating) plurals.

    • more than one child = children
    • more than one woman = women
    • more than one man = men
    • more than one person = people
    • more than one goose = geese
    • more than one mouse = mice
    • more than one barracks = barracks
    • more than one deer = deer

And, finally, there are nouns that maintain their Latin or Greek form in the plural. (See media and data and alumni, below.)

    • more than one nucleus = nuclei
    • more than one syllabus = syllabi
    • more than one focus = foci
    • more than one fungus = fungi
    • more than one cactus = cacti (cactuses is acceptable)
    • more than one thesis = theses
    • more than one crisis = crises*
    • more than one phenomenon = phenomena
    • more than one index = indices (indexes is acceptable)
    • more than one appendix = appendices (appendixes is acceptable)
    • more than one criterion = criteria

Related pages


  1. "noun, a.1" The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989. OED Online. Oxford University Press. <>.
  2. Huddleston, R. & Pullum, G. K. (2002). The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.

3. Plural Noun Forms." Plural Noun Forms. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Sept. 2014.