Definition: A noun is a word that names a person, place, thing, or idea.

Concrete nouns name people, places, or things that you can touch, see, hear, smell, or taste.

Mrs. JonesParisbook
doctormountainssports car

Abstract nouns name ideas, concepts, or emotions. These nouns are intangible, which means you cannot touch, see, hear, smell, or taste them using your five senses.


Hint : Remember, pronouns are not nouns.


 Common nouns name any person, place, thing, or idea. They are not capitalized unless they come at the beginning of a sentence. 

Proper nouns are the names of specific people, places, things, or ideas. Proper nouns should always be capitalized.

riverGanga River
doctorDoctor Jitendra
candy barSmooth Milk

Hint : Don’t forget to capitalize all parts of proper nouns. Many people forget to capitalize words like river and county in proper nouns like Yellow River and Orange County.

Definition: A compound noun is a noun made up of two or more words. Each word makes up part of the meaning of the noun.

Compound nouns can be written three ways:

A single wordTwo wordsHyphenated
haircutrain forestself-esteem
toothpasteice creambrother-in-law


A compound noun is the sum of its two parts. However, there are some words that aren’t compound nouns even though they can be broken up into two words. One example is a compound adjective.

half-eaten pie
(Half-eaten describes the pie, so it is an adjective, not a noun.)

Two-word proper nouns can also be classified as compound nouns. Remember that proper nouns name specific people, places, and things.

Angkor Wat
Atlantic Ocean
Eiffel Tower
Nelson Mandela


Single-word compounds and hyphenated compounds are easy to spot, but two-word compounds can be tricky. Ask yourself, “Would I find both words together as a single entry in the dictionary?” For example, if you compare the phrase cold water with the compound noun ice cream, you can see the difference. In the phrase cold watercold is an adjective that describes the noun water. However, ice cream is a compound noun because ice is not an adjective describing cream. The two words work together to create a single noun. To check the spelling of a compound noun, look it up in the dictionary.

When a compound noun is a single word, make it plural by adding s to the end. If the compound noun is hyphenated or composed of two separate words, remember to add s only to the word that is plural.

one mother-in-law ⇒ two mothers-in-law
(There are two mothers, not two laws.)

one director general ⇒ two directors general
(There are two directors, not two generals.)

Definition: Collective comes from the same root as collection. A collective noun names a group, which is like a collection of people or things.


Hint:Put the word in this test sentence to see if it works: One ______ is a group.

One team is a group.
One jury is a group.
One herd is a group.

Beware of plurals! Students can be a group, but that doesn’t make the word collective. It is plural. Remember to use the test sentence One ____ is a group.

One student is not a group.


It is important to be able to identify collective nouns because of the way they agree with verbs. We will cover this topic in Verbs: Agreement and Challenges

Definition: Possessive nouns show ownership. Possessive comes from the same root as possession, something you own.

Singular Possessives

Add ‘s to singular words to show possession.

Dog’s collarsister’s backpackcar’s engine
(dog  +  ‘s)(sister  +  ‘s)(car  +  ‘s)

If a singular word ends in s, it is still necessary to add ‘s.

Charles’s sneakersBess’s dressesbus’s tires
(Charles  +  ‘s)(Bess  +  ‘s)(bus  +  ‘s)

Plural Possessives

If you have added an s to make a word plural (for example, cat ⇒ cats), adding ‘s will sound ridiculous (cats’s). In that case, add only the apostrophe to the end of the word.

Dogs’ collarssisters’ backpackscars’ engines
(dogs  +  ‘)(sisters  +  ‘)(cars  +  ‘)

Just like singular possessives, plural possessives that don’t end in s add ‘s.

Children’s homeworkfish’s bowlsoctopi’s tentacles
(children  +  ‘s)(fish  +  ‘s)(octopi  +  ‘s)

Hint:Look at the ending in front of the apostrophe to see if the word is singular or plural.

One dog|’s tail(One dog has one tail.)
Two dogs|’ tails(Two dogs have two tails.)

If two people own something together, use an ‘s after the second person only.

Joe and Mary’s car is new.(Both Joe and Mary own the car.)

If two people own two separate things, add ‘s to each name.

Laurie’s and Megan’s nails are painted the same color.(Each girl has her own nails.)

You may find that certain names ending in s add only an apostrophe. That rule is somewhat old-fashioned. However, some names, such as Jesus, Moses, Achilles, and Charles Dickens (historical names that end in a z sound), can end with either an apostrophe or ‘s.

Jesus’ parables were instructional stories.Jesus’s parables were instructional stories.
Moses’ first tablets were broken.Moses’s first tablets were broken.

Some people prefer to use only the apostrophe, but because we usually pronounce the extra s, adding ‘s is correct as well.Note:Possessive nouns act as adjectives in sentences. These nouns modify the nouns that follow them. If you want more information on this topic, you can look at Pronouns, Lesson 2 and Modifiers: Adjectives and Adverbs, Lesson 2.

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