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This article is part of the grammar course.

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Nouns are one of the basic word classes. They are one of the semantic group which carry most of the meaning of the sentence. There are several ways of looking at them.

  • In primary school, you may have learnt that 'a noun is a naming word.' This is true - as far as it goes.
  • The secondary school definition is 'a noun is the name of a thing, idea, person or place.'
  • A modern characterisation of a noun should be easier: if you can put a word, on its own, after 'the' or 'a' and it feels natural, then it is probably a noun - e.g. the man, a car, a university, a course, the reference, etc. This does not apply to all nouns - e.g. people's names only have 'the' before them in unusual circumstances, but they are still nouns. Examples of proper nouns with the definite article 'the' include "the Anne [that I am talking about] is the one in the History Department"; "the Hull I mean is in Canada."

The word class noun can be subdivided in several ways. There are common and proper nouns; abstract and concrete nouns; and countable and non-countable nouns. All these distinctions can overlap - an abstract noun may be either common or proper, and a proper noun can be countable or uncountable. Other types of noun include collectives and verbal nouns; for a longer list see category:noun attributes.