Nouns are words that identify or name people, places, or things. Nouns can function as the subject of a clause or sentence, an object of a verb, or an object of a preposition. Words like cat, book, table, girl, and plane are all nouns. Nouns can also follow linking verbs to rename or re-identify the subject of a sentence or clause; these are known as predicate nouns.
Noun as The Subject
The subject in a sentence or clause is the person or thing doing, performing, or controlling the action of the verb.
- “The dog chased its tail.” (The noun dog is performing the action of the verb chase.)
- “Mary reads a book every week.” (The proper noun Mary is performing the action of the verb read.
Noun as Objects
Grammatical objects have three grammatical roles: the direct object of a verb, the indirect object of a verb, or the object of a preposition.
Direct objects are what receive the action of the verb in a sentence or clause.
- “The dog chased its tail.” (The noun tail is receiving the action of the verb chase.)
- “Mary reads a book every week.” (The noun book is receiving the action of the verb read.)
An indirect object is the person or thing who receives the direct object of the verb. For instance:
- “Please pass Jeremy the salt.” (The proper noun Jeremy is receiving the direct object salt, which receives the action of the verb pass.)
- “I sent the company an application for the job.” (The noun company is receiving the direct object application, which receives the action of the verb sent.)
Objects of prepositions
Nouns are also used after prepositions to create prepositional phrases. When a noun is part of a prepositional phrase, it is known as the object of the preposition.
- “Your backpack is under the table.” (The noun table is the object of the preposition under, which creates the prepositional phrase under the table.)
- “I am looking for work.” (The noun work is the object of the preposition for, which creates the prepositional phrase for work.)
Nouns that follow linking verbs are known as predicate nouns (sometimes known as predicative nouns). These serve to rename or re-identify the subject. If the noun is accompanied by any direct modifiers (such as articles, adjectives, or prepositional phrases), the entire noun phrase acts predicatively.
- “Love is a virtue.” (The noun phrase a virtue follows the linking verb is to rename the subject love.)
- “Tommy seems like a real bully.” (The noun phrase a real bully follows the linking verb seems to rename the subject Tommy.)
- “Maybe this is a blessing in disguise.” (The noun phrase a blessing in disguise follows the linking verb is to rename the subject this.) (Go to the section on Subject Complements in the part of the guide that covers Syntax to learn more about predicate nouns).
Categories of Nouns
There are many different kinds of nouns, and it’s important to know the different way each type can be used in a sentence. Below, we’ll briefly look at the different categories of nouns. You can explore the individual sections to learn more about each.
Common and Proper Nouns
Nouns that identify general people, places, or things are called common nouns
—they name or identify that which is common among others.
Proper nouns, on the other hand, are used to identify an absolutely unique person, place, or thing, and they are signified by capital letters, no matter where they appear in a sentence.
Common Nouns Proper Nouns
“He sat on the chair.” “Go find Jeff and tell him dinner is ready.”
“I live in a city.” “I’ll have a Pepsi, please.”
“We met some people.” “Prince William is adored by many.”
Nouns of Address
Nouns of address are used in direct speech to identify the person or group being directly spoken to, or to get that person’s attention. Like interjections, they are grammatically unrelated to the rest of the sentence—they don’t modify or affect any other part of it.
- “James, I need you to help me with the dishes.”
- “Can I have some money, Mom?”
- “This, class, is the video I was telling you about.”
- “Sorry, Mr. President, I didn’t see you there.”
Concrete and Abstract
Concrete nouns name people, places, animals, or things that are physically tangible—that is, they can be seen or touched, or have some physical properties.
Proper nouns are also usually concrete, as they describe unique people, places, or things that are also tangible.
table rocks lake countries people
Africa MacBook Jonathan
Abstract nouns, as their name implies, name intangible things, such as concepts, ideas, feelings, characteristics, attributes, etc.
love hate decency conversation emotion