images 7

Noun Chart, Noun Definition & Noun Examples


Kinds and function

There are four kinds of a noun in English:

 Common nouns: dog, man, table

 Proper nouns: France, Madrid, Mrs Smith, Tom

 Abstract nouns: beauty, charity, courage, fear, joy

Collective nouns: crowd, flock, group, swarm, team

A noun can function as:

The subject of a verb: Tom arrived.

The complement of the verbs is, become, seem: Tom is an actor.

 The object of a verb: I saw Tom.

The object of a preposition: I spoke to Tom.

A noun can also be in the possessive case: Tom’s books.


A  Masculine: men, boys and male animals (pronoun he/they).

Feminine: women, girls and female animals (pronoun she/they).

 Neuter: inanimate things, animals whose sex we don’t know and sometimes babies whose sex we don’t know (pronoun it/they).

Exceptions: ships and sometimes cars and other vehicles when regarded with affection or respect are considered feminine. Countries, when referred to by name, are also normally considered feminine.

The ship struck an iceberg, which tore a huge hole in her side.

 Scotland lost many of her bravest men in two great rebellions.

Personal masculine/feminine nouns

Different forms:

(a)boy, girl                      gentleman, lady                  son, daughter

bachelor, spinster                husband, wife                   uncle, aunt

 bridegroom, bride               man, woman                  widower, widow

 father, mother                  nephew, niece

 Main exceptions:

 baby                                    infant                                 relative

 child                                    Parent                                spouse

cousin                                   relation                           teenager

(b) duke, duchess              king,  queen                     prince, princess

earl, countess                      lord, lady

The majority of personal nouns have the same form:

Artist    cook     driver     guide

assistant     dancer    doctor     etc.

 Main exceptions:

actor, actress                                host, hostess

conductor, conductress             manager, manageress

heir, heiress                                  steward, stewardess

 hero, heroine                                waiter, the waitress

 Also salesman, saleswoman etc., but sometimes-person is used instead of -man, -woman: salesperson, spokesperson.

 C Domestic animals and many of the larger wild animals have different forms:

bull, cow duck, drake ram, ewe stallion, mare

cock, hen gander, goose stag, doe tiger, tigress

dog, bitch lion, lioness

Others have the same form.


1. The plural of a noun is usually made by adding s to the singular:

 day, days dog, dogs house, houses

s is pronounced /s/ after a p, k or f sound. Otherwise, it is

pronounced /z/.

 When s is placed after ce, ge, se or ze an extra syllable (hz0 is added to the spoken word.

Other plural forms

2. Nouns ending in o or ch, sh,/ss or x form their plural by adding es:

 tomato, tomatoes brush, brushes box, boxes

 church, churches kiss, kisses

3. But words of foreign origin or abbreviated words ending in o adds only:

 dynamo, dynamos kimono, kimonos piano, pianos

kilo, kilos photo, photos soprano, sopranos

 When es is placed after ch, sh, ss or x an extra syllable (/Iz/) is added to the spoken word.

Nouns ending in y following a consonant form their plural by dropping they and adding are:

 baby, babies country, countries fly, flies lady, ladies

 Nouns ending in y following a vowel form their plural by adding s:

 boy, boys day, days donkey, donkeys guy, guys

 Twelve nouns ending in for the drop the f orfe and add yes. These nouns are a calf, half, knife, leaf, life, loaf, self, sheaf, shelf thief, wife, wolf:

loaf, loaves wife, wives wolf, wolves etc.

The nouns hoof, scarf and wharf take either s or ves-in the plural:

 hoofs or hooves              scarfs or scarves wharves or wharves

Other words ending in for the add s in an ordinary way:

cliff, cliffs handkerchief, handkerchiefs safe, safes

A few nouns form their plural by a vowel change:

foot, feet louse, lice mouse, mice woman, women

 goose, geese man, men tooth, teeth

The plurals of child and ox are children, oxen.

 F Names of certain creatures do not change in the plural.

fish is normally unchanged. fishes exist but are uncommon.

 Some types of fish do not normally change in the plural:

 Carp          pike            salmon           trout

Cod           plaice            squid            turbot


but if used in a plural sense they would take a plural verb.

 Others add s:

 crabs            herrings             sardines

 eels               lobsters              sharks

 deer and sheep do not change: one sheep,

 two sheep. Sportsmen who shoot duck, partridge, pheasant etc. use the same form

 for singular and plural. But other people normally add s for the

plural: ducks, partridges, pheasants.

The word game, used by sportsmen to mean an animal/animals hunted,

 is always in the singular and takes a singular verb.

G A few other words don’t change:

aircraft, craft (boat/boats)                      quid (slang for £1)

counsel (barristers working in court)

Collective nouns, crew, family, team etc., can take a singular or plural verb; singular if we consider the word to mean a single group or unit:

Our team is the best

or plural if we take it to mean a number of individuals:

Our teams are wearing their new jerseys.

When a possessive adjective is necessary, a plural verb with there is more usual than a singular verb with its, though sometimes both are possible:

 The jury is considering its verdict.

The jury is considering their verdict.

Certain words are always plural and take a plural verb:

clothes                 police

 garments consisting of two parts:

breeches          pants             pyjamas              trousers            etc.

and tools and instruments consisting of two parts:

binoculars pliers scissors spectacles

 glasses scales shears etc.

Also certain other words including:

arms (weapons)                                                      particulars

damages (compensation)                                premises/quarters

earnings                                                                        riches

 goods/wares                                                               savings

 greens (vegetables)                                           spirits (alcohol)

 grounds                                                                         stairs

 outskirts                                                               surroundings

 pains (trouble/effort)                                           valuables

A number of words ending in ics, acoustics, athletics, ethics, hysterics, mathematics, physics, politics etc., which are plural in form, normally take a plural verb:

His mathematics are weak.

 But names of sciences can sometimes be considered singular:

Mathematics is an exact science.

Words plural in form but singular in meaning includes news:

The news is good

 certain diseases:

 mumps           rickets            shingles

 and certain games:

billiards           darts              draughts

bowls             dominoes

Some words which retain their original Greek or Latin forms make their plurals according to the rules of Greek and Latin:

crisis, crises / crisis/, krais:z/               phenomenon, phenomena

erratum, errata                                              radius, radii

memorandum, memoranda                        terminus, termini

oasis, oases /au’elsis/, /are is:z/

But some follow the English rules:

dogma,              dogmas             gymnasium,            gymnasiums

the formula, formulas (though formulae are used by scientists)

 Sometimes there are two plural forms with different meanings:

appendix, appendixes or appendices (medical terms)

appendix, appendices (addition/s to a book)

index, indexes (in books), indices (in mathematics)

 Musicians usually prefer Italian plural forms for Italian musical terms:

 the libretto, libretti tempo, tempi

 But s is also possible: librettos, tempos.

Compound nouns

  1. Normally the last word is made plural:

 boy-friends            break-ins                 travel agents

 But where man and woman are prefixed both parts are made plural:

 men drivers                women drivers

The first word is made plural with compounds formed of verb + er nouns + adverbs:

 hangers-on             lookers-on                runners-up

and with compounds composed of noun + preposition + noun:

 ladies-in-waiting              sisters-in-law               wards of the court

Initials can be made plural:

MPs (Members of Parliament)

VIPs (very important persons)

OAPs (old age pensioners)

UFOs (unidentified flying objects)

 Uncountable nouns (also known as non-count nouns or mass nouns)

1 Names of substances considered generally:

bread             cream             gold            paper             tea

beer                dust                ice               sand             water

cloth               gin                   jam             soap              wine

coffee            glass                oil              stone             wood

Abstract nouns:

advice           experience          horror             pity

beauty             fear              information              relief

courage           help             knowledge            suspicion

death               hope              mercy                       work

Also considered uncountable in English:

 baggage          damage           luggage           shopping

camping            furniture         parking            weather

These, with hair, information, knowledge, news, rubbish, are sometimes countable in other languages.

Uncountable nouns are always singular and are not used with a/an:

 I don’t want (any) advice or help. I want (some) information.

He has had no experience in this sort of work.

These nouns are often preceded by some, any, no, a little etc. or by nouns such as bit, piece, slice etc. + of:

a bit of news            a grain of sand                 a pot of jam

a cake of soap          a pane of glass                a sheet of paper

a drop of oil              a piece of advice

Many of the nouns in the above groups can be used in a particular sense and are then countable and can take a/an in the singular. Some examples are given below.

hair (all the hair on one’s head) is considered uncountable, but if we

 consider each hair separately we say one hair, two hairs etc.:

Her hair is black. Whenever she finds a grey hair she pulls it out.

We drink beer, coffee, gin, but we can ask for a (cup of coffee, a gin, two

gins etc. We drink wine out of glasses. We can walk in the woods.

experience meaning ‘something which happened to someone’ is countable:

He had an exciting experience/some exciting experiences

 (= adventure/s) last week.

 work meaning ‘occupation/employment/a job/jobs’ is singular:

He is looking for work/for a job.                       I do homework.

She does housework.

 But road works means ‘repair of roads’.

works (plural only) can mean ‘factory’ or ‘moving parts of a machine’.

works (usually plural) can be used of literary or musical compositions:

Shakespeare’s complete works.

Some abstract nouns can be used in a particular sense with a/an, but in the singular only:

a help:

My children are a great help to me.               A good map would be a help.

a relief:

It was a relief to sit down.

a knowledge + of:

He had a good knowledge of mathematics.

 a dislike/dread/hatred/horror/love + of is also possible:

a love of music                a hatred of violence

a mercy/pity/shame/wonder can be used with that-clauses

introduced by it:

It’s a pity you weren’t here.                        It’s a shame he wasn’t paid.

a fear/fears, a hope/hopes, a suspicion/suspicions

These can be used with that-clauses introduced by there:

 There is a fear/There are fears that he has been murdered.

 We can also have a suspicion that…

Something can arouse a fear/fears, a hope/hopes, a suspicion/suspicions.

The form of the possessive/genitive case

‘s is used with singular nouns and plural nouns not ending in s:

a man’s job                   the people’s choice

men’s work                   the crew’s quarters

 a woman’s intuition   the horse’s mouth

 the butcher’s (shop)    the bull’s horns

a child’s voice                women’s clothes

the children’s room       Russia’s exports

A simple apostrophe (‘) is used with plural nouns ending in s:

a girls’ school                  the students’ hostel

the eagles’ nest               the Smiths’ car

Classical names ending in a usually add only the apostrophe:

 Pythagoras’   Theorem            Archimedes’ Law                Sophocles’ plays

Other names ending in s can take ‘s or the apostrophe alone:

 Mr Jones’s (or Mr Jones’ house)                   Yeast’s (or Yeats’) poems

With compounds, the last word takes the ‘s:

 my brother-in-law’s guitar

Names consisting of several words are treated similarly:

Henry the Eighth’s wives                       the Prince of Wales’s helicopter ‘s

 can also be used after initials:

 the PM’s secretary              the MP’s briefcase             the VIP’s escort

Note that when the possessive case is used, the article before the person or thing ‘possessed’ disappears:

the daughter of the politician = the politician’s daughter

 the intervention of America = America’s intervention

the plays of Shakespeare = Shakespeare’s plays

Use of the possessive/genitive case and of + noun

The possessive case is chiefly used of people, countries or animals as shown above. It can also be used:

1.Of ships and boats: the ship’s bell, the yacht’s mast

2. Of planes, trains, cars and other vehicles, though here the of construction is safer:

a glider’s wings or the wings o a glider

the train’s heating system or the heating system of the train

In time expressions:

a week’s holiday             today’s paper             tomorrow’s weather

 in two years’ time          ten minutes’ break        two hours’ delay

a ten-minute break, a two-hour delay is also possible:

 We have ten minutes’ break/a ten-minute break.

In expressions of money + worth:

1’s worth of stamps                  ten dollars’ worth of ice-cream

With for + noun + sake: for heaven’s sake, for goodness’ sake

In a few expressions such as:

a stone’s throw             journey’s end              the water’s edge

  • We can say either a winter’s day or a winter day and a summer’s day or a summer day, but we cannot make spring or autumn possessive, except when they are personified: Autumn’s return.
  • Sometimes certain nouns can be used in the possessive case without the second noun. a/the baker’s/butcher’s/chemist’s/florist’s etc. can mean ‘a/the baker’s/butcher’s etc. shop’.

Similarly, a/the house agent’s/travel agent’s etc. (office) and the dentist’s/doctor’s/vet’s (surgery):

You can buy it at the chemists.                  He’s going to the dentists.

Names of the owners of some businesses can be used similarly:

Sotheby’s, Claridge’s

 Some very well-known shops etc. call themselves by the possessive form and some drop the apostrophe:  Foyles, Harrods.

Names of people can sometimes be used similarly to mean ‘

 . . .’s house’:

We had lunch at Bill’s.                       We met at Ann’s.

of + noun is used for possession:

When the possessor noun is followed by a phrase or clause:

The boys ran about, obeying the directions of a man with a whistle.

 I took the advice of a couple I met on the train and hired a car.

With inanimate ‘possessors’, except those listed in A above:

the walls of the town              the roof of the church             the keys of the car

However, it is often possible to replace noun X + of + noun Y by noun Y + noun X in that order:

 the town walls                   the church roof                the car keys

Unfortunately, noun + of + noun combinations cannot always be

 replaced in this way and the student is advised to use of when in doubt.

Compound Nouns

 Examples of these:

 1 Noun + noun:

‘London ‘Transport ‘             ‘Fleet Street ‘              Tower ‘Bridge

hall ‘door                             ‘traffic warden ‘               ‘petrol tank

hitch-hiker                          ‘skyjacker                           ‘river bank

 ‘kitchen ‘table ‘                 winter ‘clothes

2.Noun + gerund:

‘fruit picking ‘                ‘lorry driving ‘                  coal-mining

weight-lifting                ‘bird-watching                  ‘surf-riding

Gerund + noun:

 ‘waiting list’                  diving-board                 ‘driving licence

 ‘landing card               ‘dining-room                   ‘swimming pool

B Some ways in which these combinations can be used:

 1 When the second noun belongs to or is part of the first:

 ‘shop ‘window ‘            picture frame             ‘college ‘library

 ‘church bell ‘               garden ‘gate                       ‘gear lever

 But words denoting quantity: lump, part, piece, slice etc. cannot be used in this way:

 a piece of cake                     a slice of bread

2. The first noun can indicate the place of the second:

‘city ‘street                ‘corner ‘shop              ‘country ‘lane              ‘street market

3. The first noun can indicate the time of the second:

‘summer ‘holiday              ‘Sunday paper               ‘November fogs

‘spring ‘flowers                   ‘dawn ‘chorus

The first noun can state the material of which the second is made:

‘steel ‘door                ‘rope ‘ladder                  ‘gold ‘medal

 ‘stone ‘wall                 ‘silk ‘shirt

wool and wood are not used here as they have adjective forms: woollen and wooden. gold has an adjective form golden. but this is used only figuratively:

a golden handshake               a golden opportunity                golden hair

 The first noun can also state the power/fuel used to operate the second:

‘gas ‘fire                ‘petrol engine                ‘oil ‘stove

The first word can indicate the purpose of the Second:

coffee cup ‘escape hatch ‘chess board ‘

reading lamp ‘skating rink ‘tin opener

‘golf club ‘notice board ‘football ground

Work areas, such as a factory, farm, mine etc., can be preceded by the name of the article produced:

 Fish- farm            gold-mine               oil- rig

or the type of work done:

‘inspection pit ‘            assembly plant                 ‘decompression chamber

These combinations are often used of occupations, sports, hobbies and the people who practise them:

‘sheep fanning ‘           sheep farmer!                pop singer

‘windsurfing              ‘water skier                     ‘disc jockey

and for competitions:

football match              ‘tennis tournament               ‘beauty contest             ‘car rally

The first noun can show what the second is about or concerned with. A work of fiction may be a ‘detective/murder/mystery/ghost/horror/spy story. We buy ‘bus/train/plane tickets. We pay ‘feel/laundry/

 milk/telephone bills, ‘entry fees, ‘income tax, ‘car insurance. ‘water rates, ‘parking fines.

 Similarly with committees, departments, talks, conferences etc.:

 ‘housing committee,          ‘education department,            ‘peace talks

These categories all overlap to some extent. They are not meant to be mutually exclusive but aim to give the student some general idea of the uses of these combinations and help with the stress.

As will be seen from the stress-marks above:

1. The first word is stressed in noun + gerund and gerund + noun combinations, when there is an idea of purpose as in B5 above, and in combinations of type B7 and B8 above.

2. Both words are usually stressed in combinations of types Al, B1-3 above, but inevitably th.ere are exceptions.

3. In place-name combinations both words usually have equal stress:

‘King’s ‘Road              ‘Waterloo ‘Bridge                 ‘Leicester ‘Square

 But there is one important exception. In combinations where the last word is Street, the word Street is unstressed:

 ‘Bond Street                           ‘Oxford Street