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What are nouns?

It is interesting to know that the word 'noun' actually comes from the latin word for 'name'. Knowing this can help us understand why nouns are sometimes referred to as 'naming words'. They are words which are the name of a person, animal, place or thing (e.g. an object).


Most sentences contain a noun and, in fact, it is possible to make a complete sentence using just a noun + a verb:

Jack walked.

Birds fly.

Margaret fell.


There are lots of different types of nouns including common nouns, proper nouns and collective nouns. We will now look at each of these in turn to understand what they are.

1. Common nouns

Common nouns refer to a person, object or place. Examples of common nouns include bike, runner or cinema. Common nouns can be divided into two categories:

Concrete nouns - These are physical things that can be seen, touched, tasted, heard or smelt. They are basically those things that can be experienced through the five senses. Examples of concrete nouns include chocolate, radio, rain, apple pie and guitar.

Abstract nouns - These are things that don't have a physical form but are still things. Examples include love, friendship, hatred, betrayl or kindness.

2. Proper nouns

A proper noun is the name of a specific object, person or place. So for example, the word 'cat' is a common noun whereas the name of a specific cat (e.g. 'Reggie') would be a proper noun. Here are some other example:

Common noun = city

Proper noun = Liverpool


Common noun = teacher

Proper noun = Mr Watson


You will notice that in all of the examples proper nouns require capital letters. Other examples of proper nouns include Cambridge, September, Monday, Sam or Amy.

3. Collective nouns

Collective nouns are words which describe a group or collection of objects, animals, people or places. Here are some examples:


a flock of birds

a litter of puppies

a bunch of flowers

a pride of lions

a team of footballers

What are pronouns?

Pronouns are words which are used to stand in for nouns that have already been mentioned or referred to. They can also be used to refer to yourself and other people. They are handy to use in writing so you don't have to keep using the same noun over and over again e.g.


Example without pronouns: Once there was a little girl called Sarah. Sarah lived with her family in a small house at the edge of town. Sarah went to school everyday. At school, Sarah's favourite subject was Art.

Example with pronouns: Once there was a little girl called Sarah. She lived with her family in a small house at the edge of town. She went to school everyda. At school, her favourite subject was Art.


Just like with nouns, it is possible to have a complete sentence that simply contains a pronoun + a verb e.g. He swam.


Possessive pronouns: These act just like pronouns but they help to show a noun's possession or ownership. Possessive pronouns are mine, yours, his, hers, its, ours, yours, and theirs. Here are some examples of possessive pronouns in sentences:


Those are my trainers. They are not yours.

I didn't have my calculator for Maths class, so James lent me his.

Your birthday plans sound just as exciting as mine!

Nouns as the subject or object

A complete sentence is usually made up of at least a subject and a verb. The subject is a person, animal, place or thing and the verb that describes the action carried out by the subject.

Typically, the subject is the noun or pronoun. So normally nouns and pronouns act as the subject for the verb which follows. Here are some examples of nouns being the subject:


Dogs bark.

Mary ran away.

Lasagna is delicious.


Interestingly, nouns can also play the part of an object within a sentence. They normally come after the verb and represent something or someone that is affected by the action described. Here are some examples of nouns which are the object in a sentence:


Mollie lends Jack the calculator.

Please give Mike some cheese.

I've brought the girls a present!

When are children taught about nouns?

Nouns KS1: Children first learn about nouns in KS1. English Appendix 2 of the National Curriculum states that children should be introduced to the terms noun and noun phrase in Year 2.


Nouns KS2: Throughout KS2, children build on this understanding. English Appendix 2 of the National Curriculum states that in year 4, children should learn how to form noun phrases expanded by the addition of modifying adjectives, nouns and preposition phrases. In Year 4 children also learn about pronouns and possessive pronouns.

In Year 5, children learn about relative pronouns.

In Year 6, children learn about the subject and object of a sentence.

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