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2 Nouns


2 Nouns

 

Nouns are commonly thought of as "naming" words, and specifically as the names of "people, places, or things". Nouns such as John, London, and computer certainly fit this description, but the class of nouns is much broader than this. Nouns also denote abstract and intangible concepts such as birth, happiness, evolution, technology, management, imagination, revenge, politics, hope, cookery, sport, literacy....   

Because of this enormous diversity of reference, it is not very useful to study nouns solely in terms of their meaning. It is much more fruitful to consider them from the point of view of their formal characteristics.  

2.1 Characteristics of Nouns

Many nouns can be recognised by their endings. Typical noun endings include:  

  

-er/-or

actor, painter, plumber, writer

-ism

criticism, egotism, magnetism, vandalism

-ist

artist, capitalist, journalist, scientist

-ment

arrangement, development, establishment, government

-tion

foundation, organisation, recognition, supposition

 

  

Most nouns have distinctive SINGULAR and PLURAL forms. The plural of regular nouns is formed by adding -s to the singular:  

 

Singular

Plural

car

cars

dog

dogs

house

houses

 

  

However, there are many irregular nouns which do not form the plural in this way:  

 

Singular

Plural

man

men

child

children

sheep

sheep

 

  

The distinction between singular and plural is known as NUMBER CONTRAST.  

We can recognise many nouns because they often have the, a, or an in front of them:  
  

the car  
an artist  
a surprise  
the egg  
a review

These words are called determiners, which is the next word class we will look at.  

Nouns may take an -'s ("apostrophe s") or GENITIVE MARKER to indicate possession:  
  

the boy's pen  
a spider's web  
my girlfriend's brother  
John's house

If the noun already has an -s ending to mark the plural, then the genitive marker appears only as an apostrophe after the plural form:  
  

the boys' pens  
the spiders' webs  
the Browns' house

The genitive marker should not be confused with the 's form of contracted verbs, as in John's a good boy (= John is a good boy).  

Nouns often co-occur without a genitive marker between them:  
  

rally car  
table top  
cheese grater  
University entrance examination

We will look at these in more detail later, when we discuss noun phrases.  

   


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