The cock crowed, the sun rose, and I with my coffee cup sat at the computer thinking about writing. Telling a compelling story is terrific. Writing pages and pages is great, but…am I writing right?

Bound and determined to answer this question I started a quest to review basic grammar over the next few weeks. Today’s lesson:  Nouns

So what are nouns? That is easy enough to answer: Nouns are names of persons, places, things and ideas. Some examples are as follows:

  • Name: John Doe
  • Place: England
  • Thing: dog/ table
  • Idea: democracy/anger/joy

Many nouns are proceeded by articles such as ‘a’, ‘an’, and ‘the’.

A good example would be: The dog sat on the porch.

Now we know how to recognize them, how are they classified and used?

According to A Writer’s Reference, by Diana Hacker nouns are classified as:

  1. 1.     Concrete vs. Abstract
  2. 2.     Proper vs. Common
  3. 3.     Singular, plural, or collective.

Looking at these classifications one by one we see that nouns can be concrete or abstractConcrete nouns point to definite, particular items such as: church, roadway, or orchid and are preferred in most writing since they create a brighter and clearer picture for the reader.  Abstract nouns refer to ideas or qualities such as justice, joy, idealism, or dignity.

Proper nouns refer to specific persons, places, or things and ideas and are capitalized. E.g. Names of gods, Religions, Religious Followers, sacred books, family relationship titles used as names, particular places, nationalities, and races/tribes, languages, educational institutions, specific departments, governmental departments, organizations, political parties, events, documents, months, holidays (does not include the seasons), time periods, degrees, and historical movements. Nouns which are not capitalized are considered to be common.

Last, but by no means least, nouns can be singular, plural, and collective. Collective nouns are nouns such as family, class, troupe, which name a class or a collective group. They usually distinguish the group as a single unit and can be treated as singular nouns. E.g. The jury debated the verdict. Jury in the previous sentence refers to the jury as a unit and therefore is treated as a singular noun.

Jury can be used as a plural noun simply by implying each juror debated. E.g. The jury is debating the verdict amongst themselves. (In this sentence we imply that each jury member has a say in the verdict, so the noun jury becomes plural in order to represent each member of the group.

 Nouns can also be possessive and require an apostrophe.  When nouns indicate ownership, such as Jan’s cards, or Jack’s paper, they are possessive and require an apostrophe. A good test to see if an apostrophe is needed is to turn the phrase into an ‘of phrase.’ For instance using the examples mentioned above in this paragraph:  Jan’s cards would be ‘the cards of Jan’ and Jack’s paper would be the ‘papers of Jack’ and thus would need an apostrophe.

What started out to be a leisurely stroll through basic grammar has already shown me that there is much to learn. It is nearly noon; my sandwich and soup are calling. Think that afterward I’ll pick up some already completed writing and circle all the nouns for practice. That will keep me busy until next week when I post: Pronouns, I’m all for them.


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