Nouns and Noun Functions for English Grammar

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Aug 12, 2011

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Nouns and Noun Functions Practice Exercises for English Grammar


A noun is the name of a person, place, thing, quality, activity, concept, or condition.


    Abraham Lincoln is known throughout the world for his humanity.
    Cervantes created one of the great comic novels.
    Students of logic study Socrates.
    The actor portraying Tarzan has a simple task.
    Pelé, the Brazilian soccer player, scored more goals than any other player before him.


    Lima is the capital of Peru.
    Dublin experienced a literary renaissance just after the turn of the century.
    Travelers find Scotland one of the most beautiful places to visit.
    Colombia is noted for marvelous coffee.
    Afghanistan is no longer visited by most tourists.


    A beach is unsurpassed for relaxation.
    A man's house is his castle.
    Dogs perform an important function for the blind.
    The committee gathered around the conference table.
    Russians enjoy tea served in a glass.


    I admire her childlike innocence.
    A thing of beauty is a joy forever.
    The House of Representatives sometimes appears to be available to the highest bidder.
    She discerned deceitfulness in his proposal.
    The shopkeeper accused the salesman of opportunism.


    Fishing had become a major sport.
    He made his fortune in manufacturing.
    Leisure has become increasingly important for the middle class.
    The horse show listed six events, of which jumping was considered most important.
    Writing is an art too often neglected.
    One of the best books on cooking is now out of print.

Concept or Condition

    Christianity is one of the major world religions.
    The newspaper carried major articles on changes in capitalism.
    Football is often a game of inches.
    Allied Armies invaded Normandy in 1944.
    Monarchy was the prevailing form of government in Europe at that time.

Noun Functions

A noun can have many functions in a sentence:

  1. subject of a verb,
  2. direct object of a verb,
  3. object of a preposition,
  4. object of a verbal (gerund, infinitive, participle),
  5. indirect object of a verb,
  6. predicate complement (complement of a copulative verb),
  7. modifier of another noun.

Subject of a Verb

    Houses built after 1950 are usually of poor construction. (Subject Houses, verb are.)
    Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.
    Indian art has many admirers.
    Despite all assurances, the young dancer found his debut trying.
    New York City appears to have reached a stable size.
    Swimming was his greatest pleasure. (The gerund Swimming functions here as subject of was.)

Direct Object of a Verb

    The hunter shot three deer. (Verb shot, direct object deer.)
    The automobile forced the cows off the road.
    African hunters found agriculture impossible to sustain.
    Critical acclaim too early in a career may impede a novelist's development.
    Inadequate education may cause delinquency.
    They liked dancing. (The gerund dancing functions here as the direct object of liked.)

Object of a Preposition

    They walked about the mall. (Preposition about, object of preposition mall.)
    For his part, he would remember that day forever.
    Up and down the river, there was nothing but solid ice.
    She performed most of her chores during the afternoon. (Preposition of, object of preposition chores; preposition during, object of preposition afternoon.)
    The couple decided to ski the upper slope before lunch.

Object of a Verbal

    Swimming the channel was more than he could manage. (Verbal Swimming; channel, object of the verbal swimming.)
    To pass his examinations easily was all he wanted.
    Fighting the rain, he slowly made his way home.
    Having found his wallet, he decided to retire for the night.
    The consulting engineer offered yet another suggestion for solving the problem.

Indirect Object of a Verb

    The lawyer gave her secretary a brief letter. (Verb gave, indirect object secretary.)
    We showed the curator the new acquisition.
    The pitcher threw the fielder the ball.
    The messenger gave Juan an envelope.
    Teachers assign their classes enough work to keep anyone busy.

In all these sentences, the word order can be rearranged so that the indirect object can be made the object of a preposition: The lawyer gave a brief letter to her secretary. We showed the new acquisition to the curator. The pitcher threw the ball to the fielder. The messenger gave an envelope to Juan. Teachers assign to their classes enough work to keep anyone busy.

Predicate Complement

    In the eyes of many of her clients, she is the best lawyer in town. (Verb is, predicate complement lawyer. The verb is is, of course, a copulative verb.)
    Christianity is the religion of many Europeans.
    She is the youngest teacher in our school.
    The main difficulty of that country is the poverty of most of the population.
    Word processors can be a blessing for those of us who write illegibly.

Modifier of Another Noun

    Stone walls were built throughout New England. (Noun Stone, modifying noun walls.)
    The peace talks settled the long war.
    Glass doors were installed in the kitchen.
    Tennis champions played many tournaments that year.
    John collected postage stamps.

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Nouns and Noun Functions Practice Exercises for English Grammar

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