What is a Noun?

13 Dec

What is a Noun? 什么是名词? When a word tells us the name名称or title for something, it is a noun. 名词是某事的名字。A noun is a word that names a person, place, thing, quality, or idea


  • Person: Mary, mother, child, teacher, doctor, secretary, King Henry
  • Place: forest, country, China, home, racetrack, grocery store
  • Thing: notebook, pot, bottle, calculator, sun, cell phone
  • Quality: kindness, peace, hope, anger, love, passion, loyalty
  • Idea / Theory: socialism, utilitarianism, moral, interest, obligation


Question: What is it?

Answer:  “It is _________.” 它是 _________. The missing word is a noun.


  • It is a car.
  • It is a
  • It is Tom.
  • It is a
  • It is International Business.
  • It is Free Trade.
  • It is
  • It is a class.
  • It is Beijing.
  • It is the weather.


If the word can answer the question “what is it” . . . . it is probably a noun! 这个词能否回答“这是什么?如果“是”,那可能是一个名词.


Concrete Nouns (具体名词) tell us the name of a person, place, or thing that you can actually see, hear, touch, smell, taste. 

For example: car, cow, dog, tree, chair, desk, Beijing, Tommy, teacher, ocean, book.


Abstract Nouns (抽象名词) tell us the name of an idea理念, theory理论, belief信仰, quality性质, or feeling感觉.  Something that you cannot see, touch, taste, smell, hear. . . but it still is a thing.

For example: Christianity, Mercantilism重商主义, beauty, anger, history.


Proper Nouns (正确的名词) name something specific具体 – tell us which specific one we are talking about. They are always Capitalized (*start with a big letter)!

For example: Thomas, Beijing, Huawei, Islam, Coca Cola, Chemistry, Utilitarianism 功利主义, Apple Mac.


Common Nouns (共同的名词) is the general name for something. Not specific. Not capitalized (*start with a small letter) unless it is at the beginning of a sentence or “Quotation.”

For example: boy, city, phone, religion, soda, class, ethical theroy, computer.


Single Nouns 单个名词are only one word:

Example: boy, bicycle, Taobao, flower, car, city, Shanghai, hope, fear.


Sometimes a noun can include two or three words. These nouns are called “Compound Nouns复合名词.”

Example: Christmas Tree, Santa Claus, toothpaste, swimming pool, haircut, Caffe Latte, South America.


When a noun is the name of a group, we call it a “Collective Noun. 集体名词

 Example: band, collection, caravan, assembly, team


Sometimes a noun can be confusing扑朔迷离. Because sometimes we put a lot of words together to make one noun. 有时候,我们把许多单词放在一起,创造一个“名词”Even if the words are not all nouns by themselves! This kind of noun is called a “Noun Clause名词性从句”

Example 1: Swimming in the pool is fun. –What is fun? It is swimming in the pool.  **Swimming is usually an activity, an action—something we do. It is not a noun. But here, we made it into a noun because it tells us the name of something that is fun.

 Example 2: The girl that is eating rice is very beautiful. –What is it that you think is beautiful? Not just any girl in the room—the girl that is eating rice.


The Noun in a Sentence

 EVERY SINGLE SENTENCE MUST HAVE A NOUN! This is a rule of sentences. If your sentence does not have a noun, it is usually a bad sentence.


Nouns are really popular in sentences – they can show up in many different places!  But their most important job is to be the SUBJECT (主题) of the sentence. The noun tells us WHAT IS THIS SENTENCE TALKING ABOUT?


Example: Thomas is really tired.  What is this sentence talking about? Mark, John, random boys?  NO! It’s all about Thomas.

 Example: The Christmas Tree came from a farm in Hunan this year. What is the topic or subject of this sentence? The Christmas Tree! Notice that “farm” and “Hunan” are both nouns too. But they are not the main subject of this sentence. It isn’t about farms or Hunan—it’s telling us about the tree.


*In English, the Subject comes first (early in the sentence). Then the verb (is, was, looked, saw, hid, ran, talked). Then the rest of the information (is at the park, talked to the other boy). So put the SUBJECT NOUN early in the sentence! 


Example: Mrs. Wang (subject) gave (verb) the car to Jessica.

Mrs. Wang and Jessica and car are all verbs. Mrs. Wang and Jessica name specific people, so they are proper nouns and are capitalized. “car” is a general name for a kind of vehicle and is a common noun. It is not capitalized.

2 Responses to “What is a Noun?”

  1. Harold December 13, 2017 at 8:49 pm #

    Wonderful … you are in my domain now. If you ever get the chance please read “I Seem to be a Verb” by Buckminster Fuller or even recommend it to your more advanced students. Bucky was a wonderful mentor … and invented the geodesic dome. His thoughts are worth exploring and spending some energy contemplating. He and Alan Watts, who wrote “The Book” and many more, are the two major influences in my life and help define who I am to this day. Enjoy your posts and hope all goes well for you in your life.

    Harold … in Roanoke, VA.

    • deceptivelyblonde December 19, 2017 at 2:19 am #

      🙂 I love English writing, but some of my students are some sort of awful at it. 😛 I was lucky, I had an excellent textbook series in school.

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