Explanation

Nouns constitute one of the major word classes, which includes words for people, animals, and things (teacher, rabbit, desk) and also many words for abstract concepts (kindness, mystery, technology).

The surest way to identify nouns is by the ways they can be used after determiners such as the: for example, most nouns will fit into the frame “The __ matters/matter.”

Nouns are sometimes called ‘naming words’ because they name people, places and ‘things’; this is often true, but it doesn’t help to distinguish nouns from other word classes. For example, prepositions can name places and verbs can name ‘things’ such as actions.

  • Our dog bit the burglar on his behind!
  • My big brother did an amazing jump on his skateboard.
  • Actions speak louder than words.

Not nouns:

  • He’s behind you! [this names a place, but is a preposition, not a noun]
  • She can jump so high! [this names an action, but is a verb, not a noun]

Nouns may be classified as common (e.g. boy, day) or proper (e.g. Ivan, Wednesday), and also as countable (e.g. thing, boy) or non-countable (e.g. stuff, money). These classes can be recognised by the determiners they combine with.

  • common, countable: a book, books, two chocolates, one day, fewer ideas
  • common, non-countable: money, some chocolate, less imagination
  • proper, countable: Marilyn, London, Wednesday

Typical nouns share a number of grammatical properties, such as the ability to form a plural (teachers, kindnesses) and to occur after a/an or the (a teacher, the kindness of strangers).

See also noun phrase

Nouning verbs

A quick activity looking at how some words can be both nouns and verbs

This is a simple starter activity that will help your students see how some words can function as both nouns and verbs. The activity is designed to be carried out in pairs around the class. One student be the noun and the other will be the verb. Each will need the same word list (which you can download and print below) or you can just use the word list on the screen.

Derived nouns and composition

In this activity we will look at suffixes that can change adjectives and verbs into nouns.

Derived nouns and composition: Activity 1

Complete the examples with nouns which are derived from the highlighted adjectives. The first answer is provided for you.

Anna was late. It annoyed me. → Anna's lateness annoyed me.

Jeff is shy. I didn’t notice this until the party. → I didn’t notice Jeff’s ___ until the party. I didn’t notice Jeff’s shyness until the party.

Derived nouns and composition: Activity 2

Complete the examples with nouns which are derived from the highlighted adjectives. The first answer is provided.

The peacekeeping forces withdrew. It led to civil war. → The withdrawal of the peacekeeping forces led to civil war.

Noun endings

Exploring suffixes and how they affect word class

In this activity we will look at suffixes which change verbs and adjectives into nouns. This process is a part of derivational morphology

Noun identification

In this activity, students work through the criteria for identifying nouns.

Noun identification: Activity 1

Which words do you think are nouns?

Noun identification: Activity 2

I'll see you on Thursday.

Is Thursday a noun?

  • Does it represent a person, place, thing or idea?
  • Can it be singular or plural? Can you say one ___ and two ___s?
  • Can it be possessive? Can you add 's or ' at the end?
  • Can it follow the or a?
  • Can it be replaced with a pronoun like it, he, she, or they?

Noun phrase generator

Students can generate noun phrases using a quick and easy smartboard tool.

Goals

  • Create some new noun phrases.
  • Examine what can and can't happen in noun phrases.
  • Evaluate example noun phrases, looking at why they do or don't work.

Lesson Plan

The teacher explains that today, we will be generating noun phrases. 

Noun phrase generator: Activity

Use the interactive whiteboard to generate weird and wonderful noun phrases. 

Nouns and only nouns

Students are asked to communicate using a bank of nouns - and nothing else.

Goals

  • Communicate with a partner using only nouns.
  • Discuss what can and can't be easily expressed using only nouns.
  • Determine which other types of words are useful for expressing complex ideas.

Lesson Plan

The teacher explains that this activity will involve you trying to express progressively more complicated concepts and actions to a partner using only these words, your own body language and imagination.

Identify the nouns

Click on the words that you think are nouns. You can deselect them by clicking on them again.

Y2 GPaS Test: Identify the nouns

Identify the nouns in each of the following examples. Click on the word (or words) to select or deselect them.

Y6 GPaS Test: Identify the nouns

Find the nouns in a range of examples

Identify the nouns in each of the following examples. Click on the word (or words) to select or deselect them.

Y6 GPaS Test: Noun or pronoun?

Work out whether the highlighted word is a noun or a pronoun

In each of the following examples, indicate whether the highlighted word is a noun or a pronoun:

Y6 GPaS Test: Noun or verb?

In each of the following examples, indicate whether the highlighted word is a noun or a verb:

Y6 GPaS Test: Spelling plurals

Select the correct plural form:

Noun phrases

Noun phrases are phrases which have as their Head word a noun or pronoun.

Nouns

In terms of meaning, nouns are sometimes described as ‘naming words’ – words for people, animals and things. The noun class does include many words of this kind: brother, baby, rabbit, horse, handbag, chair. These all refer to physical beings or objects – they are concrete nouns. But there are also many abstract nouns – nouns with abstract (non-material) meanings, like pleasure, sight, kindness.

Nouns: Concrete and abstract

Strictly speaking, the distinction between concrete noun and abstract noun is not really a matter of grammar, but of semantics. In other words, the decision to label a noun as concrete or abstract is more to do with the word’s meaning than its grammatical form or function.

There is very little, if any, grammatical difference between the ways in which abstract and concrete nouns operate.

Nouns: Count and non-count

Common nouns are either count or non-count. Count nouns can be ‘counted’, as follows:

one pen, two pens, three pens, four pens...

Non-count nouns, on the other hand, cannot be counted in this way:

*one software, *two softwares, *three softwares, *four softwares...

Pronouns: Advanced

Pronouns behave in some ways like nouns and can sometimes replace them in a sentence. For this reason, pronouns are often treated as a subclass of nouns and there are some good reasons for doing this, but they are – in some important ways – different from nouns.

»

Englicious contains many resources for English language in schools, but the vast majority of them require you to register and log in first. For more information, see What is Englicious?

Englicious (C) Survey of English Usage, UCL, 2012-15 | Supported by the AHRC and EPSRC. | Cookies