Chapter 3
The Noun

We have learnt that a noun is a naming word. It is a word used to name a person, animal, place or thing. Now let us consider the following examples and see how many kinds of nouns there are.

  1. Delhi is the capital of India.
  2. The Cauvery is a useful river.

In the above sentences Delhi, capital, India, Cauvery and river are nouns.

Kinds of Nouns

There are two kinds of nouns. They are as follows:

  1. Proper noun
  2. Common noun

Proper Noun


A Proper noun is the name of a particular person or place or thing.

Examples and explanation

The nouns Delhi, India and Cauvery denote a particular city, country and river respectively. We call them Proper nouns.


  • The word thing is used to mean anything that we can think of.
  • A proper noun should always begin with a capital letter.
  • Common Noun


    A Common noun is the name given to a person, thing or place of the same kind or class.


    River and capital


    In the above examples the nouns, river and capital are different from proper noun. The noun capital may be used to refer to any other city of the same kind. Similarly the noun river may be used to denote any other of the same class. These are called common nouns. They do not denote any particular thing or place. Boy, box, bird, chair, pen, book etc are some more examples of Common nouns.

    Use of Proper Noun as Common Noun

    Sometimes a proper noun is used as a common noun.


    Kashmir is the Switzerland of India.


    Here the noun Switzerland is used as a Common noun, though, ordinarily it is a Proper noun. The sentence means that Kashmir is rich in natural scenery.

    Kinds of Common Nouns

    There are three kinds of Common nouns

    1. Collective noun
    2. Abstract noun
    3. Material noun

    Collective Noun


    A Collective noun denotes a group or collection.


  • I saw a flock of sheep.
  • The crowd of visitors scattered.
  • Here is a rich library of books.
  • Explanation

    In these sentences, flock, crowd and library indicate a group or collection. They are called Collective Nouns.

    Abstract Noun


    An Abstract noun denotes a quality, state or action.


    • Mercy is good.
    • Kindness is noble.
    • Anger is bad.


    The words Mercy, Kindness and Anger denote qualities and state. They are called Abstract Nouns.

    Abstract nouns may be formed from:

    1. Adjectives such as

      Brave Bravery
      Deep Depth
      Great Greatness
      High Height
      Dark Darkness
      Intelligent Intelligence
      Poor Poverty

    2. Other common nouns such as

      Friend Friendship
      Hero Heroism
      King Kingship
      Man Manhood
      Thief Theft
      Slave Slavery

    3. Verbs such as

      Arrive Arrival
      Die Death
      Live Life
      Laugh Laughter
      Obey Obedience
      Protect Protection
    4. Material Noun


      A Material noun denotes a substance or a material of which things are made.


      • Iron is a useful metal.
      • Paper is manufactured in Bhadravathi.
      • The uses of rubber are many.


      The words iron, paper and rubber are names of substances or material out of which things are made. They are called Material Nouns.

      Nouns: Number


      Singular number denotes one thing or person; plural number denotes two or more.


      • Radha sang a sweet song.
      • Her songs are melodious.


      The noun song in the first sentence is said to be in the singular number while the noun songs in the second sentence is in the plural number.

      Formation of plurals

      1. We can form a plural by adding ‘s’ to the singular.

        Singular Plural
        Boy Boys
        Girl Girls
        Bird Birds
        Book Books
        Pen Pens
        Robber Robbers

      2. We can form a plural by adding ‘es’ to the singular.

        Singular Plural
        Box Boxes
        Branch Branches
        Match Matches
        Bench Benches
        Tax Taxes

      3. We can form a plural by changing ‘f’or ‘fe’ into ‘v’ and adding ‘es’.

        Singular Plural
        Knife Knives 
        Life Lives
        Leaf Leaves
        Wife Wives 
        Calf Calves

      4. We can form a plural by changing ‘y into ‘i’ and adding ‘es’.

        Singular Plural
        Lady Ladies
        Baby Babies
        City Cities
        Family Families
      5. We can form a plural by changing the inside vowel of the singular.

        Singular Plural
        Man Men
        Woman Women
        Foot Feet
        Tooth Teeth


      These are not the rules regarding the formation of plurals; they are only illustrations of how some plurals are formed. However, there are many words that cannot be brought under any of the above-mentioned ways of forming plural. For example, child-children, ox-oxen, datum-data.

      Some nouns have no plural form.


      News, Mathematics, Information, Innings.

      Some nouns are always in plural; they have no singular form.


      Spectacles, Trousers, Tidings, Breaches.

      Some nouns have the same form both in singular and plural.


      Sheep, Deer, Dozen.

      Some nouns have two plural forms each with a different meaning.


      Genius : Geniuses (Men of talent), Genii (Spirits)

      Cloth : Cloths (Pieces of cloth), Clothes (Articles of dress)

      Brother : Brothers (Sons of the same parent), Brethren (Members of the same society)

      Nouns: Gender


      Gender denotes the sex of the noun.

      Types of Gender

      There are four kinds of gender. They are Masculine Gender, Feminine Gender, Common Gender and Neuter Gender.

      Examples and explanations

      • Boy, father, sir, man, tiger.
      • The nouns in this group belong to the male sex: they are said to be of Masculine Gender.

      • Girl, mother, madam, woman, tiger.

        The nouns in this group belong to the female sex: they are said to be of Feminine Gender.

      • Friend, teacher, parent, pupil, officer.

        The nouns in this group denote either male or female. Parent may mean father or mother, pupil may be a boy or girl and so on. These are of the Common Gender.

      • Pen, tree, chair, box, book.

        The nouns in this group do not belong either to the male sex or the female sex; they are neither masculine nor feminine. They are of the Neuter Gender.


      Generally, things known for strength, power greatness, etc. are treated as of the masculine gender; while things known for beauty, charm, grace, fertility etc. are treated as belonging to the feminine gender.

      1. The sun is on his endless journey in the heavens.
      2. The ship reached her destination safe.
      3. India is my native land; she has flooded my being with love.

      Forming the feminine of the noun

      There are three ways of forming the feminine of a noun.

      1. By using an entirely different word.
      2. By adding a syllable ess (very rarely ine, trix a etc are also added).
      3. By adding ess after dropping the vowel of the masculine ending.


      Nouns: Case


      Case is the expression given to the way a noun is used.


      A noun or pronoun can be expressed in five cases based on the way it is used. They are as follows:

      1. Nominative case
      2. Accusative case
      3. Dative case
      4. Vocative case
      5. Possessive case or Genitive case

      Nominative case


      When a noun or pronoun is used as the subject of a verb, it is said to be in the nominative case.


      • The child caught the flying sparks.
      • The boy flew a kite.
      • Kalidasa wrote Shakuntala.
      • The pupil answered all the questions.


      The noun child is the subject of the verb in the first sentence. Similarly the Nouns boy, Kalidasa and pupil in the other sentences are subjects of the verb. So they are in the Nominative case.

      Accusative case


      When a noun or Pronoun is used as the direct object of the Verb, it is said to be in the Objective or Accusative case.


      • The child caught the flying sparks.
      • The boy flew a kite.
      • Kalidasa wrote Shakuntala.
      • The pupil answered all the questions.


      Sparks is the object of the verb caught. Similarly Kite is the object of the verb flew; Shakunthala is the object of the verb wrote; and questions is the object of the verb answered. All these nouns are in the Accusative case.

      Let us consider the following sentences.

      1. Ram gave a pen.
      2. Ram gave Rahim a pen.

      In the above two sentences, the noun pen is the object of gave. In the second sentence we find that Rahim was the person to whom Ram gave a pen. The noun pen, the ordinary object is called the direct object. Hence, pen is in the Accusative case. The noun Rahim is the indirect object of the Verb gave and is said to be in the Dative case .


      • Direct and Indirect objects are explained in chapter six.
      • A noun used like an adverb to modify a verb, an adjective or an adverb denoting time, place, distance, weight, value etc is called an adverbial object or adverbial accusative and is said to be in the accusative case adverbially.


      • He held the post ten years.
      • I cannot wait a moment longer.
      • He went Home.

      A noun that comes after a Preposition is also said to be in the Accusative case.


      • The book is in the desk.
      • The river flows under the bridge.
      • The bird perched on the branch.


      The noun desk is in the Accusative case governed by the preposition in. Similarly the word bridge is the object of the preposition under and branch is the object of the preposition on. These nouns are also in the accusative case.


      • To find the Accusative put Whom? or What? before the Verb and its subject.
      • To find the Nominative put Who? or What? before the Verb.
      • The nouns have the same forms in the Nominative and the Accusative cases.
      • The Nominative generally comes before the Verb and the Accusative after the Verb. Hence, they are decided by the order of the words, or by the sense.

      Dative case


      The indirect object of a verb is in dative case.


      • He showed the boy a picture.
      • Ram gave Rahim a pen.


      Picture is the direct object while boy is the indirect object. Boy is in dative case. Similarly Rahim is the indirect object and hence is in the Dative case.

      Vocative case


      When a noun is addressed or spoken to, it is in the vocative case.


      • Think well, children.
      • Do the right, my friends.


      In the first sentence the children are addressed or spoken to; in the second, my friends are addressed or spoken to, it is called the Nominative of address. The nouns children and friends are in the vocative case.

      Possessive case


      The possessive or genitive case denotes possession or ownership.


      • This is Govind’s pen.
      • This is a result of my mother’s love.


      The word Govind’s denotes ownership. The pen belongs to him. It is in the possessive case. The Possessive case does not always denote possession. It is used to denote authorship, origin, kind etc as shown in the second example where mother’s is in the Possessive case.

      Formation of the possessive case.

      In the expression Govind’s pen possessive case is formed by the addition of apostrophe (’) to the noun Govind.

      Examples and explanation

      • These are the bird’s feathers.
      • These are the birds’ feathers.

      In the first sentence bird’s is singular number, here the apostrophe (’) comes first and then s. In the second sentence birds’ is plural; here the apostrophe comes after s.

      Possessive case is formed by adding ’s to the singular noun-

      • Brother’s books.
      • Man’s wear, etc.

      When a noun is plural and ends in ‘s’, the possessive case is formed by adding only an apostrophe.

      • Boys’ clothes.
      • Students’ Home, etc.

      When a noun is plural but does not end in ‘s’, possessive case is formed by adding ’s.

      • Children’s corner,
      • Women’s section, etc.

      Possessive case is ordinarily used with the names of living beings. So it would be wrong to say chair’s arms; we should say arms of the chair. However, there are exceptions. We say a day’s wages, a month’s holiday, a stone’s throw, an hour’s time, a rupee’s worth, a hair’s breadth, etc. This is because possessive case is allowed in the case of nouns denoting time, space, weight and value.

      Possessive case is also used with the names of personified objects as India’s heroes; Nature’s laws; Fortune’s favourite; Death’s door etc. It is also used as some common phrases like- at his finger’s ends; for mercy’s sake; to his heart’s content; at his wit’s end etc.

      Parsing nouns

      To parse a noun state its: -

      1) kind, 2) number, 3) gender, 4) case and 5) relation to other word or words in the sentence.

      Parsing models-

        • Akbar and Elizabeth were contemporaries.
        • Akbar: proper noun, singular number, masculine gender, nominative case, subject of the verb were.

        • The scorpion stung the child.

        Child: common noun, singular number, objective case, object of verb stung.