A noun is the name of a person, place or thing; that is to say, it is fundamentally the name of whatever we can think about. It is also, in old-fuddy times, known as a substantive. The word originates from the Latin for ‘name’: ‘nomen’.
There are lots of different types of nouns, which you will find explained in detail below:
For names of persons or places:
a) Most nouns are common nouns. This does not mean that they sound like they should be on an episode of Jeremy Kyle, but in fact, indicate a class of persons, places or things. These only require a capital letter when stated at the beginning of a sentence. Examples of common nouns are, for instance, the words ‘man’, ‘school’ and ‘glockenspiel’ (one of my favourite words).
b) However, some nouns indicating persons and things are proper nouns. A proper noun refers to an individual person or place, and almost always starts with a capital letter; for instance, ‘Herbert’ and ‘Nantucket’.
c) Furthermore, when a noun is the name of a thing, that thing could be:
- A concrete noun. A concrete noun is something which exists in a material form and which we can therefore see, hear, touch, taste and smell.
- An abstract noun: an abstract noun is something we cannot perceive with our senses, because it is separate from matter. Examples of abstract nouns include justice, beauty, happiness, history, childhood and I guess, Mr Morris’ hair.
d) Finally, one other important category of nouns is the category of collective nouns. Examples include ‘flock’, ‘jury’ and ‘committee’. According to their sense in particular cases, the same collective noun can:
- Sometimes be plural, as in the sentence ‘The committee were in disagreement among themselves’; and
- Sometimes be singular, as in ‘The committee was full of intelligent teachers deciding which pub to go to after work’.
- Read the following poem by William Wordsworth and identify all the different nouns.
- Next, zoom in and analyse the different effects on the reader
- In the comments section below, answer the following question: how does Wordsworth achieve the seemingly effortless effect of implying the unity of his consciousness with nature?
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
By William Wordsworth
I WANDERED lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed–and gazed–but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.