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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What is a Noun?


What is a Noun?

A noun is a word used to name a person, animal, place, thing, and abstract idea. Nouns are usually the first words which small children learn. The highlighted words in the following sentences are all nouns:
Late last year our neighbours bought a goat.
Portia White was an opera singer.
The bus inspector looked at all the passengers' passes.
According to Plutarch, the library at Alexandria was destroyed in 48 B.C.

Philosophy is of little comfort to the starving.
A noun can function in a sentence as a subject, a direct object, an indirect object, a subject complement, an object complement, an appositive, an adjective or an adverb.

Noun Gender

Many common nouns, like "engineer" or "teacher," can refer to men or women. Once, many English nouns would change form depending on their gender -- for example, a man was called an "author" while a woman was called an "authoress" -- but this use of gender-specific nouns is very rare today. Those that are still used occasionally tend to refer to occupational categories, as in the following sentences.
David Garrick was a very prominent eighteenth-century actor.
Sarah Siddons was at the height of her career as an actress in the 1780s.
The manager was trying to write a want ad, but he couldn't decide whether he was advertising for a "waiter" or a "waitress"

Noun Plurals

Most nouns change their form to indicate number by adding "-s" or "-es", as illustrated in the following pairs of sentences:
When Matthew was small he rarely told the truth if he thought he was going to be punished.
Many people do not believe that truths are self-evident.
As they walked through the silent house. they were startled by an unexpected echo.
I like to shout into the quarry and listen to the echoes that returned.
He tripped over a box left carelessly in the hallway.
Since we are moving, we will need many boxes.
There are other nouns which form the plural by changing the last letter before adding "s". Some words ending in "f" form the plural by deleting "f" and adding "ves," and words ending in "y" form the plural by deleting the "y" and adding "ies," as in the following pairs of sentences:
The harbour at Marble Mountain has one wharf.
There are several wharves in Halifax Harbour.
Warsaw is their favourite city because it reminds them of their courtship.
The vacation my grandparents won includes trips to twelve European cities.
The children circled around the headmaster and shouted, "Are you a mouse or a man?"
The audience was shocked when all five men admitted that they were afraid of mice.
Other nouns form the plural irregularly. If English is your first language, you probably know most of these already: when in doubt, consult a good dictionary.

Possessive Nouns

In the possessive case, a noun or pronoun changes its form to show that it owns or is closely related to something else. Usually, nouns become possessive by adding a combination of an apostrophe and the letter "s."
You can form the possessive case of a singular noun that does not end in "s" by adding an apostrophe and "s," as in the following sentences:
The red suitcase is Cassandra's.
The only luggage that was lost was the prime minister's.
The exhausted recruits were woken before dawn by the drill sergeant's screams.
The miner's face was covered in coal dust.
You can form the possessive case of a singular noun that ends in "s" by adding an apostrophe alone or by adding an apostrophe and "s," as in the following examples:
The bus's seats are very uncomfortable.
The bus' seats are very uncomfortable.
The film crew accidentally crushed the platypus's eggs.
The film crew accidentally crushed the platypus' eggs.
Felicia Hemans's poetry was once more popular than Lord Byron's.
Felicia Hemans' poetry was once more popular than Lord Byron's.
You can form the possessive case of a plural noun that does not end in "s" by adding an apostrophe and a "s," as in the following examples:
The children's mittens were scattered on the floor of the porch.
The sheep's pen was mucked out every day.
Since we have a complex appeal process, a jury's verdict is not always final.
The men's hockey team will be play as soon as the women's team is finished.

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