Written by tutor Eileen W.
A noun names a person, place or thing. A noun is – to use a slang term – a thingymajig.
There are two kinds: concrete, think of the material that makes up a sidewalk. It is touchable, solid, you can jump
on it or do something to it. Then there is the abstract type of noun: loyalty, honesty, happiness. You
can feel these, think about these, or talk about them. They are not solid or concrete; instead they
express a certain definable concept. Be sure to spell and use these abstract types correctly in a
sentence and do not confuse them with adjectives. You cannot be loyalty, but you can have loyalty or
better yet pledge loyalty to a school, a friend, or an employer. You can be happy (an adjective) but
happiness is something you have or give or make. If you want to talk about something, you can change the
adjective form to a noun. For example, I was unhappy yesterday. Unhappiness is something we can change
if we want. So, you see, I changed unhappy (an adjective describing myself) to unhappiness – a quality
I wanted to talk about. Let’s talk about graduation for a moment! I can graduate in May, but when I
attend the actual event that will be called graduation, and someone who graduates (verb) is called a
‘graduate.’ (noun) Hope that wasn’t too confusing! Keep them straight or you might sound silly by saying,
I graduation next week!
Examples of concrete and abstract nouns
Aside from concrete and abstract nouns there are proper nouns, names of people, places, and things, and common nouns – general
names for things. Mary and Jim are proper nouns, but boy and girl are simply common nouns. You capitalize proper nouns, but be careful.
You only capitalize them if they are acting as proper nouns. For example, if I am speaking to my mother, father or dog
(common nouns) I capitalize them, “Mother, can you bring me some tea?” or “Dad!” or “Fido, please get off the couch.”
If you are not speaking to them just use the common form. My mom brings me water sometimes. My dog is annoying lots
of times. My dad is the best. We capitalize a lot in English (capitalize English!), so remember names of parks,
monuments, languages, museums, etc. will be capitalized. President Obama is capitalized even if you refer to him indirectly,
such as “The President just called me on the phone.” On the other hand, when we are talking about a nonspecific president,
“Wyzant will be getting a new president,” then we don’t capitalize the word president!
Examples of common and proper nouns
|Common (not capitalized)||Proper (capitalized)|
|beach||Round Lake Beach|
It’s very helpful to know that words that are adjectives can be changed to their noun form, so that you can talk about them.
And people and places are capitalized most of the time. The exception for people is when you talk about them in a ‘common’ way.
So remember, concrete, abstract and proper – CAP. I’ve put a cap on this lesson so you can remember to use them correctly in
Nouns Practice Quiz
Which of the following words is not a noun?
Which of these words is a noun?
Which of these nouns needs to be capitalized?