Nouns are one of the first lessons children learn in English class. It is, together with the verb , one of the main elements of the sentence, without which the sentence would be very imprecise, even losing its meaning. Therefore, it is important that children become familiar with nouns from a young age and learn to classify them. So later they will be able to understand the links that unite the different parts that make up a sentence.
What is a noun? Its functions within the sentence
Nouns are the words used to identify a person, place, object, entity, or concept. Basically, they designate and classify beings and entities. Its main function is to be the core of the subject in the sentence, so that it represents the person or object that is spoken of in the sentence. For example, in the sentence “Maria read yesterday all day” , the noun is the person who performs the action, that is: “Mary”.
However, on other occasions it performs the function of the nucleus of a noun phrase or a prepositional phrase, even though it is not the subject of the sentence. Such is the case of the phrase: “My brother’s friend has bought a dog” . In this case, there are several nouns: friend, brother and dog, which define essential elements of the sentence that give coherence to the sentence.
The main classes of nouns
There are many ways of classifying nouns in the Spanish language, taking into account their origin or the object or person they designate. The best known classifications are the following:
1. Common or proper nouns
Common nouns are those that allow naming objects, people or animals of the same class or species. Basically, they group different units together taking into account their common characteristics, although they do not express their distinctive features, which is why they are usually considered generic nouns, such as table, horse, house and pencil.
On the other hand, proper nouns are those that identify an object, person or place to differentiate it from the rest of the group to which it belongs. In essence, these are proper names that can be anthroponyms, that is, they designate names and nicknames of people such as Ramón, Alejandro and Lola, or toponyms, which name geographical areas, such as Barcelona, Madrid or Valencia. Proper nouns lack linguistic meaning since they refer to a single unit and are usually written with an initial capital letter.
2. Concrete or abstract nouns
Concrete nouns designate everything that can be perceived through the senses, that is, material elements such as lion, father, mud and sea. However, it is worth clarifying that although they name material entities, it does not necessarily mean that they are real, since they can also designate imaginary elements such as dragon, goblin or fairy.
For their part, abstract nouns refer to non-tangible elements, which cannot be perceived by the senses, but which exist in our minds in the form of ideas or concepts, such as fear, love or beauty. In turn, this type of noun is classified into abstract phenomena, such as walking or reading, abstract quality, such as purity or sensitivity, and abstract quantitative, such as length.
3. Individual or collective nouns
Individual nouns refer to a single element within a set. In other words, they designate a single being, such as a cat, giraffe or cream. It is worth noting that this type of noun also admits its plural form to designate more than one, such as cats, giraffes or creams.
In the case of collective nouns, as their name indicates, they name a set of elements of the same class or species that have common characteristics, such as pine forest or pack. Unlike individual nouns, they inherently include the idea of plurality without the need for a morpheme to express it, that is, the term itself conveys the idea of a collective made up of several units of the same category.
4. Countable and uncountable nouns
Basically, countable nouns designate beings or items that can be counted, such as four notebooks, three monkeys, and twelve rocks. They have the peculiarity that they are combined with plural quantifiers, but their semantics are not modified.
For their part, non-countable nouns refer to objects or elements that cannot be counted or divided into units, such as air, light or milk. Unlike countable nouns, these can be combined with singular quantifiers without changing their meaning. Examples of this are: “A lot of milk”, “Five glasses of milk” or “Several liters of milk”, in which the quantifier does not modify the meaning of the noun.
It is worth noting that nouns can also be simple or compound, depending on the semantic structure of the word. For example, they would be simple nouns, Marina, sugar, telephone and Seville, while those formed by one or more words such as redhead, can opener or slingshot are considered compound nouns.
gender in nouns
In the Spanish language, nouns have gender, a grammatical property that allows them to be classified as masculine, feminine and ambiguous. The most common is that masculine nouns end in “o”, with some exceptions such as photo or hand, although they can also end in a consonant, such as tree or frame. Likewise, the days of the week, the months of the year, the numbers and the cardinal points are masculine.
On the other hand, nouns of the feminine gender usually end in “a”, with the exception of some words such as map or weather. Likewise, the letters of the alphabet are feminine. A simple trick to determine the gender of a noun is to check the article that precedes it, most of the time the articles determine the gender of the noun. It is worth noting that sometimes there are nouns that do not obey exclusively to one or another gender but are ambiguous since they depend on the context, as in the case of “la mar” or “el mar”.
the number of nouns
The number of nouns refers to a grammatical property that represents the number of mentions that it implies. Basically, they are classified as singular, when a single element is designated, and plural, when more than one object is referred to. In the case of singular nouns, no number morpheme is added, so the word does not change, but when it comes to plural nouns there are some rules that govern their formation.
For example, nouns that end in “e” in the singular, add “s” to the end, while those that end in a vowel other than “e” add “es”. Likewise, when the noun ends in a consonant other than “s”, the plural is formed with “es” while if it ends in “s” “es” is added if the word is acute.