What is a Noun?

noun (noun): a word (except a pronoun) that identifies a person, place or thing, or names one of them (proper noun)

The simple definition is: a person, place or thing. Here are some examples:

Note that any of the above can also be referred to by a pronoun. And note that names like John or America are called "proper nouns".

The problem with the simple definition above is that it does not explain why "love" is a noun but can also be a verb.

Another (more complicated) way of recognizing a noun is by its:

  1. ending
  2. position
  3. function

1. Noun ending

There are certain word endings that show that a word is a noun, for example:

But this is not true for the word endings of all nouns. For example, the noun "spoonful" ends in -ful, but the adjective "careful" also ends in -ful.

2. Position in sentence

We can often recognise a noun by its position in the sentence.

Nouns often come after a determiner (a determiner is a word like a, an, the, this, my, such):

Nouns often come after one or more adjectives:

3. Function in a sentence

Nouns have certain functions (jobs) in a sentence, for example:

But the subject or object of a sentence is not always a noun. It could be a pronoun or a phrase. In the sentence "My doctor works hard", the noun is "doctor" but the subject is "My doctor".

Josef Essberger, founder EnglishClub.com Contributor: Josef Essberger, founder of EnglishClub.com. Originally from London, England, Josef is the author of several books for learners of English including English Prepositions List and Learn English in 7.