Whether you take note of them or not, you make use of various parts of speech ever day – it's not as if you consciously think about the grammar that you are using, but it is there. But what happens if you would like to know more about grammar – or perhaps you are planning to teach English to foreigners and have to know. Suddenly you may not feel so at home with your home language as what you thought – but no need to worry, there is no need to be a walking textbook. This simple guide will give you a reminder of the deeper workings of the language that you use every day. Whether you need to know yourself or need to explain it to someone else, the simple guide to nouns is all you need.

What is a noun?

A noun names places, people, animals, things and qualities. As you were told all those years ago – it is a naming word.

Types of nouns

Common: Words that represent something that can be touched and don't require a capital letter (desk, pen, chair, car, boy).

Proper: These words are more specific forms of common nouns and always have a capital letter (South Africa, James, Mercedes).

Compound: These words consist of two nouns placed together to form a new noun (post office, fax machine, textbook).

Collective: These words are used to refer to a whole group as a single entity (group, family, committee, herd).

Abstract: Words that refer to things that cannot be touched (love, honour, curiosity, perseverance, capitalism).


A plural is the "many" form of a noun – it refers to more than one. To turn a noun into its plural form we usually add "s" to the noun, but this is not always the case.

If a noun end with CH, SH, S or X, we usually add ES (lunches, bushes, crosses, taxes).

If a noun ends with a consonant and a Y, we replace the Y with IES (bullies, countries).

If a noun ends in F, we usually replace the F with VES (thieves, scarves).

As is common in the English, there are further exceptions that are learnt through experience with the language, such as woman becoming women and child becoming children.

Countable and Uncountable Nouns

Countable nouns can be preceded by A and AN, have a plural form and can be counted (a car, a house, the cars, the houses).

Uncountable nouns cannot be preceded by A and AN, do not have a plural form and cannot be counted (clay, corn, information).

The rest of a sentence can be changed according to whether the noun is countable or not, such as MANY being used with countable nouns and MUCH being used with uncountable nouns (There are many houses on this street; there is much waste on this street).

Keep it simple

The above information is all you need to know about nouns – experience is required to understand every exception to the rule, and listing all of these would defeat the purpose of a "simple" guide to nouns! Especially if you plan on teaching nouns – a student will not remember everything at ones, and learning as you go is the best way to retain information.