If you’re a writer, then you should understand the most important tools of your trade – words. After all, words are your bread and butter. Many writers focus on understanding and properly using verbs, as they drive the action. However, you should also be familiar with nouns and how to use them.
According to the Chicago Manual of Style 15, a noun is “a word that names something, whether abstract (intangible) or concrete (tangible).”
- An abstract noun describes something that you cannot see, hear, touch, taste or smell (e.g., feelings, concepts, ideas or events).
- A concrete noun describes something that you can either see, hear, touch, taste or smell.
A common noun is the informal name of an item in a class or group – an apple, a box, a bridge. Common nouns are not capitalized unless they begin a sentence or appear in a title.
A proper noun is a person’s name (e.g., Frank, Arlene), or the official name of a thing or place (e.g., Toronto, CN Tower). Proper nouns are always capitalized.
Count nouns have singular and plural forms (e.g., boat / boats, pixie / pixies. loaf / loaves). When a count noun is the subject of the sentence:
- The singular count noun takes a singular verb (e.g., the box is heavy).
- The plural count noun takes a plural verb (e.g., the boxes are heavy).
Mass (noncount or collective) nouns cannot be counted. They apply to something that is abstract (e.g., love, pressure) or something that has an unknown number of people or things (e.g., the staff, membership).
- When a mass noun is the subject of the sentence, it usually takes a singular verb (e.g., the population is large).
- When used in the collective sense, it can take either a singular or plural verb (e.g, The group is difficult to please / The group of vendors are difficult to please). The singular verb puts the emphasis on the group, while the plural verb focuses on the individual members.
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