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What Are the Different Types of Nouns?

Alex Tree
Updated May 23, 2024
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A noun is an important part of speech, and its usage differs based on the language spoken. Some of the different types include collective, abstract, and concrete. In addition, these words can be proper, compound, or count. It is usually not necessary to know the name of a particular type to use it properly, but it can help.

Collective nouns are a category that represent a group of things, such as the word "group." While this word is mundane, many specific collective nouns exist. For example, a group of ferrets can be referred to as a "busyness," and a group of hounds can be referred to as a "cry."

An abstract noun represents intangible or abstract ideas. For example, "talent" is abstract because it refers to the concept of a person’s ability. Other examples include words that represent feelings, such as "helplessness."

Concrete nouns are essentially the opposite of abstract ones. While abstract words represent ideas and feelings, concrete ones represent things generally understood by human senses. For example, a "person" is concrete because people can be seen, heard, and smelled.

A proper noun is the name of a person, place, or thing. "John Smith" comes under this category because it is the name of a person. In addition, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the name of a place. Proper names are nearly always capitalized in the English language, but the words "of" and “and” are conjunctions that should not be capitalized in this situation.

Compound nouns are made up of two words, both of them a noun. For example, toothpaste, bubblegum, and football are compounds. Blackboard is not, because black describes an item, and therefore it is an adjective. A compound word that includes an adjective is not included in this category.

A count noun is a thing a person can count. Computers, fingers, and websites are included in this type, whereas oxygen and cranberry juice are not, since they cannot be counted. If there can be more than one of something rather than just more, than it falls into this group.

To understand a mass noun, it is best to know what a count noun is. Mass nouns are things that cannot be counted, such as oxygen, history, and poetry. A person can have more oxygen and know more about history or poetry, but he or she cannot have two oxygens.

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Alex Tree
By Alex Tree
Andrew McDowell is a talented writer and Language & Humanities contributor. His unique perspective and ability to communicate complex ideas in an accessible manner make him a valuable asset to the team, as he crafts content that both informs and engages readers.

Discussion Comments

By pastanaga — On Jul 17, 2011

I've found that the capitalization of some kinds of proper nouns can trip people up. We discussed it on a writers' forum a few days ago.

The problem was with titles like "The White House" should the "the" be capitalized?

I'm not an expert myself, but we decided that in cases where the article is part of the official title, it should be capitalized, and the rest of the sentence can either be all in caps, or done in title case.

By indigomoth — On Jul 17, 2011

I adore collective nouns. Or more specifically, I adore terms of venery, which are words for groups of animals (after all, "team" is also a collective noun).

They are so poetic and often quite beautiful or disturbing. The most obvious one is a "pride" of lions, which everyone takes for granted because it is used so often. But think about how perfect it is to describe lions.

I also love that they can apply to different situations. For example, a gaggle of geese is a flock of geese on the ground, while a skein of geese is a flock of geese in flight.

I think, though, that my favorite is a clowder of cats. You know that one was made up by a poet.

By SZapper — On Jul 16, 2011

@indemnifyme - Most people I know probably wouldn't have been able to answer that question beyond a flock of geese either.

Talking about something like that would be a great way for a teach to teach collective nouns though. I don't think I'll be forgetting what a cry of hounds is for awhile after reading this article!

By jennythelib — On Jul 16, 2011

@MissDaphne - You remind me of a teacher I had years ago--she really drilled these into our heads! A lot of teachers (or I guess it's more the schools) just aren't teaching these grammar terms as much as they used to. I even learned to diagram sentences, once upon a time, but that was in the early 90s and I think even then it was an old-fashioned thing to teach.

We learned about another kind of noun--or maybe it wouldn't be considered a "noun" per se. I'm thinking noun clauses. As I remember, these are clauses (so with both a subject and a verb) that do what a noun could do in a sentence. So as an example, I could say "I know Jennifer" and Jennifer would be a noun.

Or I could say "I know you stole the money." "You stole the money" goes where the noun would go and does the same thing. "You" is the subject and "stole" is the verb, so it's a clause, a noun clause.

By indemnifyme — On Jul 16, 2011

Collective nouns are quite entertaining. I didn't know that a group of ferrets was called a busyness! However, I have actually heard this type of question asked at a trivia night.

The question asked what a group of a certain type of animal was called. There was a long list of animals for which we were supposed to name their collective noun. However, the only one I got was a flock of geese. But there are collective nouns available to refer to most groups of the same animal.

By MissDaphne — On Jul 15, 2011

I'm a middle school English teacher and I didn't know the terms count noun and mass noun! That will be really helpful for talking to my students, especially about "fewer" and "less." (Use "fewer" with count nouns and "less" with mass nouns. You might have fewer cookies, but less cake.)

The article does a good job naming the kinds of nouns, but I want to make something clear about the categories. All nouns are either concrete or abstract. All nouns are either common or proper. All nouns are either count or mass. So a noun could be concrete, common, and count, like "kittens," or, for instance, abstract, common, and mass, like "democracy."

The terms "collective" and "compound" are different. Some nouns are collective, some are... not. Some are compound, some are not. These two don't have opposite terms like the others do.

Alex Tree

Alex Tree

Andrew McDowell is a talented writer and Language & Humanities contributor. His unique perspective and ability to communicate complex ideas in an accessible manner make him a valuable asset to the team, as he crafts content that both informs and engages readers.
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