Using nouns in English is relatively simple, with standard rules and only a few exceptions. Use these pages to learn about the English grammar rules for gender, plurals, countable and uncountable nouns, compound nouns, capitalization, nationalities, and forming the possessive.

What is a Noun?

Of all the parts of speech, nouns are perhaps the most important. A noun is a word that identifies a person, animal, place, thing, or idea. Here, we’ll take a closer look at what makes a noun a noun, and we’ll provide some noun examples, along with some advice for using nouns in your sentences.

Identifying a Noun

A noun is a part of speech that denotes a person, animal, place, thing, or idea. The English word noun has its roots in the Latin word nomen, which means “name.” Every language has words that are nouns. As you read the following explanations, think about some words that might fit into each category.

  • Person – A term for a person, whether proper name, gender, title, or class, is a noun.
  • Animal – A term for an animal, whether proper name, species, gender, or class is a noun.
  • Place – A term for a place, whether proper name, physical location, or general locale is a noun.
  • Thing – A term for a thing, whether it exists now, will exist, or existed in the past is a noun.
  • Idea – A term for an idea, be it a real, workable idea or a fantasy that might never come to fruition is a noun.

How Nouns Function

Nouns have several important functions. While it’s impossible to list them all here, we’ll go over the most important jobs nouns are tasked with.

  • Nouns are subjects. Every sentence has a subject, which is a noun that tells us what that sentence is all about. John swung the baseball bat.
  • Nouns are direct objects. These nouns receive action from verbs. John swung the baseball bat.
  • Nouns are indirect objects. These nouns receive the direct object. Brad threw John the ball.
  • Nouns are objects of prepositions. These nouns follow the prepositions in prepositional phrases. John swung the baseball bat at Greg.
  • Nouns are predicate nominatives. These nouns follow linking verbs and rename the subject. John is a baseball player.
  • Nouns are object complements. These nouns complete the direct object. They named their dog Max.

This is just the beginning. Be sure to dig deeper and explore more for additional information about nouns and even more noun examples in the following lessons.


  1. Most English nouns do not have grammatical gender. Nouns referring to people do not have separate forms for men (male form) and women (female form). However, some nouns traditionally had different forms. Nowadays, people usually prefer more neutral forms.
  2. Most singular nouns are made plural by simply putting an -s at the end. There are many different rules regarding pluralization, singular and plural nouns, depending on what letter a noun ends in. Irregular nouns do not follow plural noun rules, so they must be memorized or looked up in the dictionary.
  3. It's important to distinguish between countable and uncountable nouns in English because their usage is different in regards to both determiners and verbs.
  4. The rules of capitalization in English can be quite confusing. Most students understand that they should begin a sentence with a capital letter. They also understand that proper nouns (e.g. Mark, Mary) should be capitalized.
  5. Forming nationality adjectives and nouns from country names is not always simple in English. Use the nationality adjective ending in -ese or -ish with a plural verb, to refer to all people of that nationality. The adjective listed also often refers to the language spoken in the country, although this is not always the case.
  6. Possessive

    The possessive form is used with nouns referring to people, groups of people, countries, and animals. It shows a relationship of belonging between one thing and another. To form the possessive, add apostrophe + s to the noun. If the noun is plural, or already ends in s, just add an apostrophe after the s.
  7. Words can be combined to form compound nouns. These are very common, and new combinations are invented almost daily. They normally have two parts. The first part tells us what kind of object or person it is, or what its purpose is.