A Noun is a word used as name of a person, place or thing.

Note.-the word thing is used to mean anything that we can think of.

Look at the following sentence:-

Asoka was a wise king.

The noun Asoka refers to a particular king, but the noun king might be applied to any other king as well as to Asoka. We call Asoka a Proper Noun, and king a Common Noun.


Sita is a Proper Noun, while girl is a Common Noun.

                Hari is a Proper Noun, while boy is a Common Noun.

                Kolkata is a Proper Noun, while city is a Common Noun.

                India is a Proper Noun, while country is a Common Noun.

The word girl is a Common Noun, because it is a name common to all girls, while sita is a Proper Noun because it is the name of a particular girl.

Def.-A Common Nounis a name given in common to every person or thing of the same class or kind.

[ Common here means shared by all.]

Def.-A Proper Nounis the name of some particular person or place.

[proper Means one’s own. Hence  Proper name is a person’s own name]

Note 1-Proper Nouns are always written with a capital letter at the beginning.

Note 2-Proper Nouns are sometimes used as Common Nouns; as

  1. 1.        He was the Lukman(=the wisest man) of his age.
  2. 2.      Kalidas is often called the Shakespeare(=the greatest dramatist) of india.

Common nouns include what are called collective nouns and abstract nouns.

A Collective Nounis the name of a number(or collection) of persons or things taken together and spoken of as one whole; as,


A fleet=a collection of ships or vessels.

An army=a collection of soldiers.

A crowd=a collection of people.

The police dispersed the crowd.

The French army was defeated at waterloo.

The jury found the prisoner guilty.

A herd cattle is passing.

An Abstract Nounis usually the name of a quality,action,or state considered apart from the object to which it belongs; as

Quality.- goodness,kindness, whiteness,darkness,hardness,brightness,


Action.-laughter,theft,moment, judgment,hatred.


The names of the arts and sciences(e.g.,grammar,music,chemistry,etc.) are also abstract nouns.

[we can speak of a brave soldier,a strong man,a beautiful flower. But we can also think of these qualities apart from any particular person or thing,and speak of bravery,strength,beauty by themselves. So also we can speak of what persons do or feel apart from the persons themselves,and give it a name. the word abstract means drawn off]


Abstract Nouns are formed-

(1)   From Adjectives;as,

Kindness from kind;honesty from honest.

[most abstract nouns are formed thus]

(2)  From Verbs;as,

Obedience from obey;growth from grow.

(3)  From Common Nouns;as,

Childhood from child;slavery from slave.

Another classification of nouns is whether they are”countable” or “uncountable”.

Countable nouns(or countables)are the names of objects,people,etc.that we can count,e.g.,book,pen,apple,boy,sister,doctor,horse.

Uncountable nouns(or uncountables)are the names of things which we cannot count e.g.,milk,oil,sugar,gold,honesty.they mainly denote substances and abstract things.

Countable nouns have plural forms while uncountable nouns do not.

For example,we say “books” but we cannot say “milks”.


     You know that living beings are of either the male  or the female sex. Now compare the words in the following pairs:-

Boy                 Lion                 Hero                Cock-sparrow

Girl                  Lioness            Heroine           Hen-sparrow

What do you notice?

The first word of each pair is  the name of a male animal.

The second word of each pair is  the name of a female animal.

A noun that denotes a male animal is said to be of the Masculine Gender.[Gender comes from Latin genus, kind or sort.]

A noun that denotes a female animal is said to be of the Feminine Gender.

A noun that denotes either a male or female is said to be of the Common Gender; as


monarch, neighbour, infant.

A noun that denotes a thing that is neither male or female(i.e., thing without life) is said to of  the Neuter Gender; as,

Book, pen, room, tree.

[neuter means neither, that is, neither male or female]

It will be thus seen that in Modern English the Gender of a noun is entirely a matter of sex or the absence of sex. It has nothing to do with the form of a noun, which determines its gender in many other languages ,e.g., in Urdu where bagiche is masculine and laki is feminine.

Objects without life are often personified, that is ,spoken of as if they were living beings. We then regard them as males or females.

The Masculine Gender is often applied to objects remarkable for strength and violence; as,

The Sun,Summer,Winter,Time, Death.

The Sun sheds his beams on rich and poor alike.

The Masculine Gender is sometimes applied to objects remarkable for beauty, gentleness, and gracefulness; as,

The Moon, the Earth, Spring, Autumn, Nature, Liberty,

Justice, Mercy, Peace, Hope, Charity.

                                The moon has hidden her face behind a cloud.

                                Spring has spread her mantle of green over the earth.

                                Peace hath her victories no less renowned than war.

This use is most common in poetry but certain nouns are personified in prose too. A ship is often spoken of as she; as,

The ship lost all her boats in the strom.


     There are three ways of forming the Feminine of Nouns:-

(1)   By using an entirely different word; as,

Masculine Feminine Masculine Feminine



Maid(old use)









Brother Sister King Queen
Buck Doe Lord Lady
Bull(or ox) Cow Man Women
Bullock Heifer Monk(or friar) Nun
Cock Hen Nephew Niece
Colt Filly Papa Mamma












Earl Countess Stag Hind
Father Mother Uncle Aunt
Gander Goose wizard Witch
Gentleman Lady    


(2)  By adding a syllable (-ess, -ine, -trix, –a, etc.) as,

Masculine Feminine Masculine Feminine




































[Note  that in the following –ess is added after dropping the vowel of the masculine ending]

Masculine Feminine Masculine Feminine












































Note:- The suffix –ess is the commonest suffix used to form feminine nouns, from the masculine, and is the only one which we now use in forming a new feminine noun.

Masculine Feminine Masculine Feminine













(3)  By placing a word before or after; as,

Masculine Feminine Masculine Feminine


















     Notice the change of form in the second word of each pair:-

Tree                 Box                  Ox                   Man

Trees                Boxes              Oxen                Men

The first word of each pair denotes one thing, the second word of each pair denotes more than one .

A noun that denotes one person or thing, is said to be in the Singular Number; as,

Boy, girl, cow, bird, tree, book, pen.

A noun that denotes more than one person or thing, is said to be in the Plural Number; as,

Boys, girls, cows, birds, trees, books, pens.

Thus there are two numbers in English- the Singular and the Plural.


     (i) The plural of nouns is generally formed by adding –s to the singular; as,

Boy, boys;            girl, girls;             book, books;

pen, pens;              desk, desks;          cow,cows.

(ii) But nouns ending in –s, -sh, -ch(soft),or –x form the plural by adding –es to the singular; as,

Class, classes;                      kiss, kisses;                           dish, dishes;

Brush, brushes;                   match, matches;                  watch, watches;

Branch, branches;              tax, taxes;                             box, boxes.

(iii)Most Nouns ending in –o also form the plural by adding –es to the singular; as,

Buffalo, buffaloes;            mango, mangoes;               hero, heroes;

Potato, potatoes; cargo, cargoes;                   echo, echoes;

Negro, negroes;                  volcano, volcanoes.

(iv) A few nouns ending in –o merely add –s,; as,

Dynamo, dynamos;            solo, solos;                            ratio, ratios;

Canto, cantos;                     memento, mementos;        quarto, quartos;

Piano, pianos;                     photo, photos;                      stereo, stereos;

Kilo, kilos;                           logo, logos;                          commando, commandos.

(v) Nouns ending in –y, preceded by a consonant, form their plural by changing –y into –I and adding –es; as,

Baby, babies;                       lady, ladies;                         city, cities;

Army, armies;                     story, stories;                       pony, ponies.

(vi) The following nouns ending in –f or –fe form their plural by changing –f or –fe into v and adding –es; as,

Thief, thieves;                     wife, wives;                          wolf, wolves;                        Life, lives;           

calf, calves;                          leaf, leaves;                          Loaf, loaves;                       knife, knives;      

shelf, shelves;                      Half, halves;                        elf, elves;                              self, selves;

Sheaf, sheaves;

The nouns dwarf, hoof, scarf and wharf take either –s or –ves in the plural.

Dwarfs or dwarves;                           hoofs or hooves; scarfs or scarves;               wharfs or wharves.

Other words ending in –f or –fe add –s; as,

Chief, chiefs;                       safe, safes;                            proof, proofs;                      gulf, gulfs;

Cliff, cliffs;                          handkerchief, handkerchiefs.

A few nouns form their plural by changing the inside vowel of the singular; as,

Man, men;                            woman, women;  foot, feet;              tooth, teeth;

Goose, geese;                       mouse, mice;                                        louse, lice.

There are a few nouns that form a plural by adding –en to the singular; as,

Ox, oxen; child, children.

The plural of fish is fish or fishes. In current English fish is the usual plural. Fishes can be used to refer to different kinds of fish.

Some nouns have the singular and the plural alike; as,

Swine, sheep, deer; cod, trout, salmon; aircraft, spacecraft, series, species.

Pair, dozen, score, gross, hundred, thousand(when used after numerals).

I bought three dozen oranges.

Some people reach the age of three score and ten.

The sari cost me five thousand rupees.

Stone, hundredweight.

He weighs above nine stone.

Twenty hundredweight make one ton.

Some nouns are used only in the plural.

(1)   Names of  instruments which have two parts forming a kind of pair; as,

Bellows, scissors, tongs, pincers, spectacles.

(2)  Names of certain articles of dress; as,

Trousers, drawers, breeches, jeans, tights, shorts, pyjamas.

(3)  Certain other nouns; as,

Annals, thanks, proceeds(of a sale)things, environs, nuptials, obsequies, assets, chattels.

Some nouns originally singular are now generally used in the plural; as,

Alms, riches, eaves.

Riches do many things.

The following nouns look plural but are in fact singular;-

(1)   Names of subjects

Mathematics, physics, electronics, etc.

(2)  The word news

(3)  Names of some  common diseases

Measles, mumps, rickets

(4)  Names of some games

Billiards, draughts

Mathematics is his favourite study.

No news is good news.

India won by an innings and three runs.

Measles is infectious.

Billiards is my favourite game.

‘Means’ is used either as singular or plural. But when it has the meaning of ‘wealth’ it is always plural; as,

He succeeded by this means(or, by these means)in passing the examination.

His means are small, but he has incurred no debt.

Certain Collective Nouns, though singular in form, are always used as plurals; as,

Poultry, cattle, vermin, people, gentry.

These poultry are mine.

Whose are these cattle?

Vermin destroy our property and carry disease.

Who are those people(=persons)?

There are few gentry in this town.

Note:- As a Common Noun ‘people’ means a ‘notion’ and is used in both singular and plural; as,

The Japanese are a hard-working people.

There are many different peoples in Europe.

A Compound Noun generally forms its plural by adding –s to the principal word; as,

Singular Plural
Commander-in-chief Commanders-in-chief
Coat-of-mail Coats-of-mail
Son-in-law Sons-in-law
Daughter-in-law Daughters-in-law
Stepson Stepsons
Stepdaughter Stepdaughters
Maidservant Maidservants

(but manservant, plural


Passer-by Passers-by
Looker-on Lookers-on
Man-of-war Men-of-war

We say spoonfuls and handfuls, because spoonful and handful are regarded as one word.

Note that the Proper Noun Brahman and Mussulmen are not compounds of  man; therefore their plurals are Brahmans and Mussulmans.

Many nouns taken from foreign languages keep their original plural form; as,

From Latin-

Earratum, errata;              formula, formule(or formulas);

Index, indices;                     memorandum, memoranda;

Radius, radii;                      terminus, termini(or terminuses).

From Greek-

Axis, axes;                            parenthesis, parentheses;

Crisis, crises;                       hypothesis, hypotheses;

Basis, bases;                         phenomenon, phenomena;

Analysis, analyses;             criterion, criteria.

From Italian-

Bandit, banditti,(or bandits)

Form French-

Madame(madam), mesdames; monsieur, messieurs.

From Hebrew-

Cherub, cherubim(or cherubs); seraph, seraphim(or seraphs).

Some nouns have two forms for the plural, each with a  somewhat different meanings.

Singular Plural
Brother Brothers, sons of the same parent.

Brethren, members of a society or a community.

Cloth Cloths, kinds or pieces of cloth.

Clothes, garments.

Die Dies, stamps for coining.

Dice small cubes used in games.

Index Indexes, tables of contents to books

indices, signs used in algebra.

Penny Pennies, number of coins.

Pence, amount in value.

Some nouns have two meanings in the singular but only one in the plural.

Singular                                  Plural

Light:                       (1) radiance;                            lights:lamps.

(2)a lamp.

People:                    (1) nation;                                peoples:nations.

(2)men and women

Powder:                   (1)dust;                                    powders: doses of medicine

(2)a dose of medicine

In fine grains like dust.

Practice:                   (1)habit;                                   practices: habits.

(2)exercise of a profession

Some nouns have one meaning in the singular, two in the plural.

Singular                                              Plural

Colour:                    hue.                                         Colours:                  (1)hues;

(2)the flag of a regiment.

Custom:                   habit                                        customs:                  (1)habits;

(2)duties levied on imports.

Effect:                      result                                       effects:                     (1)results;


Manner:                   method                                    manners:                  (1)methods;

(2)correct behavior.

Moral                      a moral lesson.                        Morals:                    (1)moral lessons;


Number                   a quantity                                 numbers:                 (1)quantities;


Pain                         suffering                                  pains:                       (1) sufferings.

(2)care, exertion.

Premise                   proposition                              premises:                 (1)propositions;


Quarter                    fourth part                               quarters:                  (1)fourth parts;


Spectacle                 a sight                                      spectacles:               (1)sights;


Letter                       (1)letter of the                          letters:                      (1)letters of the alphabet;

Alphabet;                                                                 (2)epistles;

(2)epistle.                                                                (3)literature.

Ground:                   (1)earth;                                   grounds:                  (1)enclosed land attached to house

(2)reason.                                                                (2)reasons;


Some nouns have different meanings in the singular and the plural.

Singular Plural
Air:atmosphere Airs: affected manners.
Good: benefit, well-being Goods: merchandise.
Compass: extent, range Compasses: an instrument for drawing


Respect: regard Respects: compliments.
Physic: medicine Physics: natural science.
Iron: a kind of metal Irons: fetters.
Force: strength Forces: troops.

Letters, figures and other symbols are made plural by adding an apostrophe and s; as,

There are more e’s than a’s in this page.

Dot your i’s and cross your t’s.

Add two 5’s and four 2’s.

It is usual to say-

The Miss Smiths.(Singular, Miss Smith)

Abstract Nouns have no plural, they are uncountables.

Hope, Charity, love, kindness.

When such words do appear in the plural, they are used as countables; as

Provocations= instances or cases of provocation.

Kindness = acts of kindness.

Names of substances are also uncountables and are not therefore used in the plural.

Copper, iron, tin, wood.

When such words are used in the plural, they become countables with changed meanings; as,

Coppers=copper  coins; irons= fetters;

Tins= cans made of tin; woods= forests;



     Examine these sentences:-

  1. 1.        Jane  threw a stone.
  2. 2.        The horse kicked the boy.

In sentence 1, the noun Jane is the subject. It  is the answer to the question, “who threw a stone?”

The group of words threw a stone is the predicate.

The predicate contains the verb threw.

What did Jane throw? – A stone. Stone is the object which Jane threw. The noun stone is therefore called the Object.

In sentence 2, the noun horse is the Subject. It is the answer to the question ,”who kicked the boy?”

The noun boy is the Object. It is the answer to the question, “whom did the horse kick?”

When a noun (or pronoun) is used as the subject of a verb,it is said to be in the Nominative Case.

When a noun( or pronoun) is used as the Object of the verb, it is said to be in the Objective(or Accusative) Case.

Note:-To find the Nominative, putwho ? or what? before the verb.

To find the Accusative, put whom ? or what? before the verb and its subject.

A noun which comes after a preposition is also said to be in the Accusative Case; as,

The book is on the desk.

The noun desk is in the Accusative Case, governed by the preposition in.

Read the following sentences

Hari broke the window.(Object)

The window was broken.(Subject)

It will be seen that nouns in English have the same form for Nominative and  Accusative.

The Nominative generally comes before the verb, and the Accusative after the verb.

Hence they are distinguished by the order of words, or by the sense.


  1. 1.        Rama gave a ball.
  2. 2.        Rama gave Hari a ball.

In each of these sentences the noun ball is the object of gave.

In the second sentence we are told that Hari was the person to whomRama gave a ball.

The noun Hari is called the Indirect Objectof the verb gave.

The noun ball, the ordinary Object, is called the Direct Object.

It will be noted that the position of the Indirect Object is immediately after the verb and before the Direct Object.


Rama gave Hari a ball                          =Rama gave a ball to Hari.

Will you do me a favour?                     =will you do a favour for me?

I bought Rama a ball                           =I bought a ball for Rama.

Fetch the boy a book                            =fetch a book for the boy.

She made Ruth a new dress                                =she made a new dress for Ruth.

Get me a taxi                                          =get a taxi for me.

We see that the Indirect Object of  a verb denotes the person to whom something is given,or for whom something is done.

Examine the sentence:-

This is Ram’s umbrella.

Ram’s umbrella = the umbrella belonging to Rama

The form of the noun Rama is Rama’s  to show ownership or possession.

The Noun Rama’s is therefore said to be in the Possessive(or Genitive)Case.

The Possessive answers the question,”whose ?”

Whose umbrella ?- Rama’s

The Possessive case does not always denote possession. It is used to denote authorship, origin, kind,etc. as,

Shakespeare’s plays                          =the plays written by Shakespeare.

A mother’s love                                  = the love felt by mother.

The president’s speech                      = the speech delivered by the President.

Mr.Aggarwal’s house                        =the house where Aggarwal lives.

Ashok’s school                                    =the school where Ashok goes.

A children’s playground                  =the playground for children.

A week’s holiday                                =a holiday which lasts a week.




(1) When the noun is Singular, the Possessive Case is formed by adding ‘s to the noun; as,

The boy’s book; the king’s crown.

Note:-the latter s is omitted in a few words where too many hissing sounds would come together; as,

For conscience’ sake; for goodness’sake;

For justice’sake; for Jesus’sake; Moses’laws.

(2) when the noun is Plural, and ends in s, the Possessive Case is formed by adding only an apostrophe; as,

Boy’s school; girl’s school; horses’tails;

(3)When the noun is Plural but does not end in s, the Possessive sign is formed by adding ‘s as,

Men’s club; children’s books.

When a noun or title consists of several words, the Possessive sign is attached only to the last word; as,

The King of Bhutan’s visit.

The Prime Minister of Mauritius’s speech.

When two nouns are in apposition, the possessive sigh is put to the latter only; as,

That is Tagore the poet’s house.

Also when two nouns are closely connected, the possessive is put to the latter; as,

Karim and salim’s bakery.

William and Mary’s reign.

Each of two or more connected nouns implying separate possession must take the possessive sign;


Raja Rao’s and R.K.Narayan’s novels.

Goldsmith’s and Cowper’s poems.



     The Possessive Case is now used chiefly with the names of living things; as,

The Governor’s bodyguard; the lion’s mane.

            So we must say:

            The leg of the table(not, the table’s leg).

                The cover of the book(not, the book’s cover).

                The roof of the house(not, the house’s roof).

But the Possessive is used with the names of personified objects; as,

India’s heroes; Nature’s laws; Fortune’s favourite; at duty’s call; at death’s door.

The Possessive is also used with nouns denoting time, space or weight; as,

A day’s march; a week’s holiday; in a year’s time; a stone’s throw; a foot’s length; a pound’s weight.

The following phrases are also in common use:-

At his fingers’ ends; for mercy’s sake; to his heart’s content; at his wit’s end; a boat’s crew.

The possessive of  a proper name or of a noun denoting a trade, profession, or relationship may be used to denote a building or place of business(church, house, school, college, shop, hospital, theatre, etc.); as,

She has gone to the baker’s(=baker’s shop)

Tonight I am dining at my uncle’s(=uncle’s house)

Can you tell me the way to St. Paul’s(=St.Paul’s church)?

I attend the Town High School but my cousin attends St.Xavier’s.

He was educated at St.Joseph’s.

When you are in doubt whether to use a noun in the possessive case or with the preposition of ,remember that, as a general rule, the possessive case is used to denote possession or ownership. Thus it is better to say ‘ the defeat of the enemy’ then ‘the enemy’s defeat’, even though no doubt as to the meaning would arise.

Sometimes, however, a noun in the possessive case has a different meaning from a noun used with the preposition of; as,

‘The Prime Minister’s reception in Delhi’ means a reception held by the Prime Minister in Delhi.

‘The reception of the Prime Minister in Delhi’ means the manner in which people welcomed him when he entered Delhi.

The phrase ‘the love of a father’ may mean either ‘ a father’s love of his child’ or ‘ a child’s love of his father’.



     Read the following sentence:-

Rama, our captain, made fifty runs.

We see that Ramaand our captain are one and the same person. The noun captain follows the noun Rama simply to explain which Rama is referred to.

When one noun follows another to describe it, the noun which is follows is said to be in

apposition the noun which comes before it.

[Apposition means which is placing near].

A noun in apposition is in the same case as the noun which it explains.

In the above sentence the noun captain is in appositionto the noun Rama, and is in the Nominative Case (because Rama is in the Nominative Case).

Further examples:-

  1. 1.        Kabir, the great reformer, was a weaver.
  2. 2.        Yesterday I metyour uncle, the doctor.
  3. 3.        Have you seen Ganguli, the artist’s drawings?

In sentence 1, the noun in apposition is in the Nominative Case.

In sentence 2, the noun in apposition is in the Accusative Case.[why?]

In sentence 3, the noun in apposition is in the Genitive Case.[why?]


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