Nouns and Articles for English Grammar (page 2)
Review exercises for this study guide can be found at:
Types of Nouns
Nouns are classified as proper nouns or common nouns.
A proper noun is the name of a specific person, place, or thing:
- Michelangelo is universally admired.
- She was a Democrat in her youth.
- Oh, to be in England!
- Lincoln Center attracts many visitors to New York City.
A common noun is the name used for any unspecified member of a class of persons, places, things, qualities, or concepts:
- Sculptors and painters work hard for recognition.
- We all admire the work of fine novelists.
- The city was known for its ugly architecture.
- Oh, to be in a faraway land.
- Steep mountains challenge experienced hikers.
- The museum exhibited only some of its treasures.
- He flirted briefly with a career in politics in his youth.
Proper nouns are capitalized; common nouns are not, unless they are the first word in a sentence.
Plural Forms of Nouns
Most nouns form their plurals by adding s to the singular: time, times; girl, girls; home, homes; bear, bears.
There are exceptions to this practice:
- Add es when a noun
- ends in s: kindness, kindnesses; lens, lenses
- ends in z: fez, fezzes; quiz, quizzes (note the doubling of z)
- ends in sh: hash, hashes; flash, flashes
- ends in ch: lunch, lunches; bunch, bunches
- ends in x: mix, mixes; box, boxes
- When a noun ends in y preceded by a consonant, change the y to i and add es: harmony, harmonies; baby, babies; burglary, burglaries.
- For certain nouns taken directly from foreign languages, form the plural as it is formed in those languages: alumnus, alumni; alumna, alumnae; erratum, errata; stimulus, stimuli; phenomenon, phenomena. There is a tendency to drop this practice and use the letter s to form plurals of words taken directly from foreign languages. Thus, the plural of memorandum is now more often memorandums than memoranda. A current dictionary will be useful in deciding questions of pluralization.
- Certain nouns do not change in forming plurals: deer, goods, headquarters, scissors, species, etc.
- Certain nouns that have come down from Anglo-Saxon retain their Anglo-Saxon plurals: foot, feet; tooth, teeth; woman, women; man, men; child, children; ox, oxen; etc.
- Certain nouns ending in o form the plural by adding s: radios, cameos, videos. Others add es: potatoes, tomatoes. Still others allow both s and es. Check your dictionary.
Possessive Forms of Nouns
Two rules are helpful in forming possessive nouns:
- With singular nouns and with plural nouns that do not end in s, add 's to form the possessive: boy, boy's; child, child's; Jane, Jane's; children, children's; brethren, brethren's; sisters-in-law, sisters-in-law's.
- With plural nouns and with singular nouns that end in s, add ' or 's to form the possessive: boys, boys'; girls, girls'; Russians, Russians'; Charles, Charles', Charles's; Yeats, Yeats', Yeats's.
A collective noun may represent a group or class considered as a unit. Such a collective noun is considered singular.
A collective noun may also represent a group or class of individuals considered as individuals. In this case, the collective noun is treated as plural.
The writer must decide how he or she intends a collective noun to be understood and must be consistent in treatment of the noun.
Some of the most common collective nouns are: army, audience, band, committee, couple, flock, group, jury, majority, and team. These nouns may be treated as singulars or plurals. When a collective noun is singular, its verb must be singular. When plural, its verb must be plural.
The following sentences show both uses:
- The army is advancing slowly. (The entire army as a unit.)
- The band has played well. (The entire band as a unit.)
- The jury has reached a verdict. (The entire jury as a unit.)
- The audience are leaving their seats now. (The members of the audience are thought of as individuals.)
- The committee disagree with the stand taken by the minority. (The members of the committee are thought of as individuals. The committee has not taken a single stand as a unit.)
- The young couple were unhappy with the apartment they rented. (Both husband and wife, as individuals, were unhappy.)
Certain collective nouns, for example, athletics, contents, and politics, appear to be plural because they end in s. Yet they are treated as singulars when they are intended as singulars and, of course, they are treated as plurals when they are thought of as plurals. Again, the writer must treat them consistently either as singulars or plurals:
- The contents of the valise was examined thoroughly by the guard. (The writer treats contents as a unit.)
- Statistics is not my best subject. (The writer is discussing a discipline called statistics.)
- The remaining contents of the valise were thrown about the room. (The writer is thinking of the individual objects that make up the contents of the valise.)
- Statistics are said to mislead the unwary. (The writer is thinking of individual computations that together constitute what we call statistics.)
A noun clause has a subject and verb and functions as a noun. Noun clauses are usually introduced by that, what, who, whoever, whatever, why, when, where, how, or which.
- That a politician can act that way after years in office never occurred to me. (subject of occurred)
- Why he acts the way he does mystifies me. (subject of mystifies)
- She insisted that she would change her ways. (object of insisted)
- She insisted she would change her ways. (object of insisted)
As Predicate Complements
- Life is whatever you make it. (complement of is)
- You now are where I would love to be. (complement of are)
As Objects of Prepositions
- He is taking action on all the problems of which you complained. (object of of)
- I purchased the book for which you bid. (object of for)
There are two types of articles: definite and indefinite. Articles are considered modifiers of nouns and pronouns.
The definite article is the. It is used to indicate a specific class of nouns or pronouns or a specific member of a class of nouns or pronouns:
- The whale is still an endangered species. (The whale as distinct from other species.)
- He gave me the assignment I requested. (He gave me a specific assignment.)
- The teacher gave the class enough homework for the week. (A specific teacher, a specific class, a specific week.)
- George Bush is the president I remember best.
- They are the ones who own the property.
Omission of the Definite Article
The definite article is omitted when the writer does not specify a particular amount or quantity of the noun.
- Teachers assign homework. (An indefinite number of teachers assign an indefinite amount of homework.)
- Salt is an important commodity. (The writer has not specified an amount of salt.)
- The salt on our table is rarely used. (In specifying a particular amount of salt, the writer uses the definite article.)
The indefinite articles are a and an. They are used as modifiers to indicate an unspecified class or member of a class of nouns:
- Ms. Smith gave her father enough money for a week. (The week is unspecified.)
- A steak costs $25 in some restaurants. (This means any unspecified steak.)
- Carpenters may never again be paid $20 an hour in New York City. (This means any unspecified hour regardless of when the work is performed.)
Choosing Between a and an
A is used before a word beginning with a consonant sound:
- A stereo played all night. (Consonant sound s.)
- He used a hammer to nail the board. (Consonant sound h.)
- A one-hour lecture is more than I can take. (One begins with the consonant sound w, as in won.)
- He was a useful person. (Useful begins with the consonant sound y as in yet.)
An is used before a word beginning with a vowel sound:
- She was an able person. (Vowel sound a.)
- He talked for an hour. (Hour begins with a vowel sound ou, as in our.)
Review exercises for this study guide can be found at:
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- First Grade Sight Words List
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- Signs Your Child Might Have Asperger's Syndrome
- A Teacher's Guide to Differentiating Instruction
- Theories of Learning
- Child Development Theories
- Social Cognitive Theory
- Curriculum Definition
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development