Kinds of Nouns.

Notice carefully the italicized words in the following sentence :

Every soldier in the army of Napoleon stood in awe of his great commander.

The word “ Napoleon ” as used in this sentence is applicable or proper to but one person; the words soldier” and commander are applicable or common to many thousands of persons; army” stands for a body of men regarded as a collective whole; while “awe” denotes merely an abstract quality or condition of mind.

A proper noun is a name assigned to some particular object.

A common noun is a name that may be applied to any one of the objects in the same class.

A collective noun is a name that may be applied to any number of objects regarded as a whole.

An abstract noun is the name of an attribute or quality.

Proper Nouns.

Proper nouns and usually words derived from them begin with capital letters:

France, French; Tennyson, Tennysonian; Philistia, Philistine, Philistinism.


Common Nouns.

Common nouns outnumber all the other kinds of nouns. Examples of common nouns are:

boy, man, horse, table, year, rock, book, leaf, dog.

Every proper noun belongs to a class designated by a common noun. Thus, Susan is a girl, New York is a city, Virginia is a state, Gyp is a dog, and Washington was a man.

Collective Nouns.

Collective nouns name groups of common nouns. There may be twenty sheep in a field, but they constitute one flock. So an army is made up of soldiers, a crew of sailors, a navy of ships, a senate of senators, the public of individuals. Shall we use is and it, or are and they in referring to collective nouns? Either one. We may say, “The public is cordially invited to attend ” or “The public are cordially invited to attend." In the former, we think of the public as a whole; in the latter, we think more of the units or individuals composing the whole. The latter is, therefore, a trifle more courteous and considerate.

Abstract Nouns.

(a) The names of things known to us through any of our five senses are often called concrete nouns. Opposed to these are abstract nouns, or names of qualities, actions, attributes, moods, and conditions. These qualities we may admire or detest; but we cannot see, touch, smell, hear, or taste them. They may be thought of as apart from or abstracted from the objects or concrete nouns that possess them. Thus, feathers are soft, silk is soft, snow is soft. We can, therefore, think of softness apart from feathers, silk, snow, or any other object having the same quality.

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(6) Abstract nouns are formed chiefly by the addition of suffixes to (1) verbs, (2) nouns, and (3) adjectives :

(1) laughter, service, enjoyment, refusal, instruction, comprehension.

(2) witchcraft, priesthood, friendship, minstrelsy, bondage, slavery, serfdom.

(3) freedom, goodness, truth, cruelty, stupidity, likelihood.



Write ten proper nouns naming persons that you know or places that you have visited.


1. Write ten common nouns naming objects in the schoolroom.

2. What common nouns name the class to which each of the following proper nouns belongs?

The Times
St. Nicholas


the Mississippi
New Orleans

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