A noun is a word that names a person, place, or thing.  It may be one word, or it may be two or more words. One can group types of nouns by precision, physicality, number, gender, and function.  Thus the noun may be common or proper; concrete or abstract; singular or plural; collective; and masculine, feminine, or neuter while functioning in a nominative, objective, or possessive case.

Compound Nouns

A noun consisting of two or more words is a compound noun. Sometimes we write a compound noun as one word:

baseball, freeway, keyboard

Often, we write compound nouns as two words:

elementary school, post office, swimming pool

Other compound nouns are hyphenated:

merry-go-round, brother-in-law, over-the-counter

There is no pattern for determining how to spell a compound noun; therefore we must use a dictionary.

Common and Proper Nouns

A noun may be common or proper. A common noun does not name a specific person, place, or thing. A proper noun does name a specific person, place, or thing and requires a capital letter.

Common noun—cat          Proper noun—Spookie

Here, we list common nouns, followed by examples of proper nouns:

lake—Lake Erie
family—Hahn Family

Concrete and Abstract Nouns

Here, we examine two more types of nouns, concrete nouns and abstract nouns. A concrete noun names a person, place, or thing. It may be either common or proper.


  • car
  • doctor
  • ship


  • Ford
  • Dr. Cho
  • Queen Mary

An abstract noun names something that cannot be seen or touched. It names something about which you can only think. An abstract noun can be common or proper as well.


  • religion
  • holiday
  • nationality


  • Judaism
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Irish

Singular or Plural Nouns

Here, we look at two more types of nouns, singular nouns and plural nouns. A noun is either singular or plural. A singular noun names only one person, place, or thing. A plural noun names more than one person, place, or thing.


  • orchid
  • perch
  • cliff


  • orchids
  • perches
  • cliffs

Collective Nouns

A collective noun names a collection of persons, places, animals, or things. We list a few examples below.

  • PERSONS: team, crew, class, army
  • ANIMALS: flock, herd, school (fish)
  • PLACES: Africa, Asia, Europe
  • THINGS: batch, bunch, assortment

Noun Gender

We also group nouns according to gender. In English, there are four genders: masculine, feminine, indefinite (either sex), and neuter (no sex). Below are examples of each gender of nouns.









Noun Cases

We can group all types of nouns into three cases: nominative, possessive, and objective. The case of the noun explains how the noun is used in the sentence.

Nominative Case

A noun is in the nominative case when it is the subject or the predicate nominative of a sentence.

In the sentence below, the noun lizard is in the nominative case because it is the subject of the sentence.

A lizard lies in the sun.

In the sentence below, reptiles renames the subject, lizards. Reptiles is in the nominative case because it is a predicate nominative.

Lizards are reptiles.

Possessive Case

Nouns that show possession or ownership are in the possessive case. The possessive form of nouns has an apostrophe and an s added to them. In the sentence below, the possessive noun Jasmin's is in the possessive case.

Rufus is Jasmin's lizard.

Objective Case

A noun is in the objective case when it is used as a direct object, an indirect object, or the object of a preposition.

A noun or pronoun is called a direct object when it is the direct receiver of the action of the verb. Direct objects are starred in the sentences below.

  • Rigo made *lunch. (Rigo made what?)
  • Davy Crockett helped *Andrew Jackson. (Davy helped who or what?)

An indirect object is the noun or pronoun that tells "to whom" or "for whom" the action was done. In the following examples, the indirect objects are starred.

Did you bring *Fido a snack? (Did you bring a snack for Fido?)

A noun or pronoun that follows a preposition is called the object of a preposition. Objects of the prepositions are starred in the examples below.

  • at the *museum
  • around the *lake
  • near *her
  • over the *top
  • besides *him
  • after the *show