Nouns are commonly de¢ned as words that refer to a person, place, thing, or idea.

Nouns can be plural or singular and can be the subject or object of a verb. For example:

  • The flowers are in the vase.
  • Love is all you need.
  • Tim is in the garden.
  • Paris is lovely in the summer.

Sometimes, it’s difficult to know if a word is a noun or another part of speech. For example, in English, the word ‘love’ can be a noun and it can be a verb. We need to look at how the word is used in the sentence to work out what part of speech it is.

Here are some tips :

  • Nouns are often the subject or object of a verb.
  • A noun often comes after a preposition (in , on, at , of).
  • Nouns often come after an article like ‘a’ or ‘the’.
  • Nouns often come after an adjective like ‘red’ or ‘pretty’ or ‘big’.
  • Nouns are often used with a determiner like ‘this’ or ‘those’.

Singular Nouns

Plural Nouns

In general the plural of a noun is formed by adding -S to the noun.

Singular Plural
car cars
house houses
book books
bird birds
pencil pencils

However:

1. When the noun ends in S, SH, CH, X or Z*, we add -ES to the noun.

Singular Plural
kiss kisses
wish wishes
match matches
fox foxes
quiz quizzes*
  • I have a box in my bedroom.
  • I have three boxes in my bedroom.

* With words that end in Z sometimes we add an extra Z to the plural form of the word (such as with the plural of quiz).

2. When the noun ends in a VOWEL + Y, we add -S to the noun.

Singular Plural
boy boys
holiday holidays
key keys
guy guys

3. When the noun ends in a CONSONANT + Y, we remove Y and add -IES to the noun.

Singular Plural
party parties
lady ladies
story stories
nanny nannies
city cities

4. If the noun ends in F or FE, we remove the F/FE and add -VES to the noun.

Singular Plural
life lives
leaf leaves
thief thieves
wife wives

Some exceptions: roof – roofs, cliff – cliffs, chief – chiefs, belief – beliefs, chef – chefs

5. If the noun ends in a CONSONANT + O, we normally add -ES to the noun.

Singular Plural
tomato tomatoes
potato potatoes
echo echoes
hero heroes

Some exceptions: piano – pianos, halo – halos, photo – photos

NOTE: Volcano has two correct forms of plural. Both volcanos and volcanoes are accepted.

6. There are a number of nouns that don’t follow these rules. They are irregular and you need to learn them individually because they don’t normally have an S on the end.

Singular Plural
man men
woman women
child children
foot feet
tooth teeth
goose geese
mouse mice
  • There is a child in the park.
  • There are many children in the park.

7. There are some nouns in English that are the same in the singular and the plural.

Singular Plural
fish fish
sheep sheep
deer deer
moose moose
aircraft aircraft
  • I can see a sheep in the field.
  • I can see ten sheep in the field.

Sometimes you will hear the word fishes (especially in songs) though it is grammatically incorrect.

8. If the noun ends in IS, we change it to ES. Words that end in IS usually have a Greek root.

Singular Plural
analysis analyses
basis bases
crisis crises

9. If the noun ends in US, we change it to I. Words that end in US usually have a Latin root.

Singular Plural
cactus cacti
fungus fungi
stimulus stimuli
syllabus syllabi

Some exceptions: octupus – octupuses (because it is from Greek, not Latin), walrus – walruses

Countable and Uncountable nouns

A) Most nouns have singular and plural forms. They are countable nouns.

e.g. One letter, two letters

  • There is a letter on the table for you. (singular)
  • There are letters on the table for you. (plural)

B) Some nouns only have one form. They are uncountable nouns.

e.g. Money

  • There is no money in my bank account.
  • There is a lot of money in my bank account.

C) Many uncountable nouns refer to substances:

e.g. Chocolate, water, coffee, milk, sugar, salt, cheese, bread, rice, wood, glass, plastic, soap, toothpaste.

  • Do you have any chocolate?
  • The milk is sour – let’s make cheese.
  • Rice is only edible when it has been cooked.

D) Many uncountable nouns refer to abstract ideas or emotions.

e.g. love, sadness, happiness, education, knowledge, and grammar.

  • Money can’t buy love.
  • We like to experience happiness.
  • This education is priceless.

E) You can use a/an with singular countable nouns.

e.g. an umbrella, a wheel, a mistake.

  • It’s raining so I need an umbrella.
  • I made a mistake.
  • This is a job for superman.

F) You can use plural countable nouns alone.

e.g. apples, bees, clouds.

  • There are clouds in the sky today.
  • There are bees making honey.
  • We eat apples for breakfast.

G) You can’t use an article with an uncountable noun.

e.g. time, sand, electricity.

  • We need electricity to use our heater.
  • I lost track of time and we stayed up very late.
  • The beaches in Brazil have very nice sand.

H) It is very common in English to use some / any with plural nouns and uncountable nouns (Refer to grammar notes on Some Any for more details).

e.g. They don’t listen to any advice.

  • We don’t have any toys for the children.
  • There are many lessons in life, this is just one more.
  • It is important to have some knowledge of grammar.

I) There are a range of nouns that are uncountable in English but are countable in other languages.

These include: accommodation, advice, baggage, behaviour, bread, chaos, damage, furniture, information, luck, luggage, news, permission, progress, scenery, traffic, weather and work.

J) For comparison purposes, look at these sentences:

Countable Uncountable
I’m looking for a job. I’m looking for work.
What a beautiful view! What beautiful scenery!
It’s a nice day today. It’s nice weather today.
We had a lot of bags and suitcases. We had a lot of luggage.
These chairs are mine. This furniture is mine.
It was a good suggestion. It was good advice.

A noun is a word that functions as the name of something. Nouns are the most common class of word in English.

Below we have a list of the different types of nouns in English with an explanation of what each one is and with examples of each type of noun.

Common Nouns

Common nouns are used to name a GENERAL type of person, place or thing.

Common nouns can be divided into smaller classes such as countable and uncountable nouns, concrete and abstract nouns and collective nouns.

Examples of common nouns: girl, city, animal, friend, house, food

Proper Nouns

Proper nouns are used to name a SPECIFIC person, place or thing. In English, proper nouns begin with a capital letter. Proper nouns do not normally have a determiner before them (e.g. the London, the Mary etc.) though there are some exceptions (e.g. Is she the Mary that we met at the conference?).

Examples of proper nouns: John, London, Pluto, Monday, France

Compound Nouns

Compound nouns are two or more words that create a noun. Compound nouns are sometimes one word (haircut), words joined by a hyphen (son-in-law) or as separate words (bus stop). The main stress is normally on the first part of the compound word (sunglasses, swimming pool)

Examples of compound nouns: toothbrush, rainfall, sailboat, mother-in-law, well-being, alarm clock, credit card

Countable Nouns

Countable nouns are nouns that CAN be counted. They have a singular and a plural form and can be used with a number. Sometimes countable nouns are called count nouns.

Examples of countable nouns: car, desk, cup, house, bike, eye, butterfly

See more information about Countable vs Uncountable Nouns.

Uncountable Nouns

Uncountable nouns are nouns that CANNOT be counted. These are sometimes called Mass Nouns. Uncountable nouns often refer to:

  • substances: paper, wood, plastic
  • liquids: milk, oil , juice
  • gases: air, oxygen
  • abstract ideas: happiness, time, information

Examples of uncountable nouns: water, coffee, cheese, sand, furniture, skin, wool, gold, fur

See more information about Countable vs Uncountable Nouns.

Collective Nouns

Collective nouns are words that refer to a set or group of people, animals or things.

Examples of collective nouns: staff, team, crew, herd, flock, bunch

See our list of Collective Nouns

Concrete Nouns

Concrete nouns are nouns which refer to people and things that exist physically and that at least one of the senses can detect (can be seen, felt, heard, smelled/smelt, or tasted).

Examples of concrete nouns: dog, tree, apple, moon, coin, sock, ball, water

Abstract Nouns

Abstract nouns are nouns that have no physical existence and are not concrete. They refer to ideas, emotions or concepts so you CANNOT see, touch, hear, smell or taste something that is an abstract noun. Many abstract nouns are uncountable.

Examples of abstract nouns: love, time, happiness, bravery, creativity, justice, freedom, speed

Gerunds

A gerund, sometimes called a verbal noun, is a noun formed from a verb. Since all gerunds end in -ing, they are sometimes confused as being a verb (present participle).

Example: Running is good for you.
Here running looks like a verb because of its -ing ending but it is a noun (gerund) because we are talking about the concept of running, we are talking about a thing.

Examples of gerunds: reading, writing, dancing, thinking, flying

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