It is very simple, yet a little difficult to answer the question. Nouns, in their simplest forms, can be said to be “things”. So, it could be any thing like a shoe, a cigar, a notepad or a building. No size, shape, volume or length is necessary for classifying a “thing” as a noun. It can be intangible, too. For example: happiness, sadness, numbness. It could be a living thing. For example: a human being, a goat or a plant. So you see a noun-classification is a pretty broad one. It is an all-encompassing classification for anything that is in your surroundings at any moment.
Let’s get a little more specific now.
A noun is any of the following: a person, a place or a thing.
Person: lady, mister, man, woman, girl, Steven, Linda
Place: house, garden, beach, city, village, Australia, U.S.A.
Thing: teapot, apple, dvd, dog, plant
Get the idea? There is a little glitch though. How do we know when a word acts like a noun and when does it act like a verb? There are certain words that can function in both the avatars. Example: the word “pay” can be used both as a noun (the money a person receives) and as a verb (act of giving someone the money.)
To counteract this problem, let’s make the definition more specific.
How to Recognize Nouns
A noun can also be recognized by looking at the word’s ending, positions, and its functions.
1. Endings: Here’s a list that makes up noun-endings.
“ity” as in “commonality”
“ness” as in “happiness”
“ment” as in “enjoyment”
“ation” as in “declaration”
“hood” as in “childhood”
However, this only applies to a set of endings as above. Not all noun-endings can be used to recognize nouns.
2. Position: A noun is seen in a sentence often-times after a determiner word (a, an, the, this, much, etc.) or after an adjective.
After a determiner:
After an adjective:
a quiet evening
a hurried affair
this slow music
my little teapot
3. Function: A noun has a specific function in a sentence. It can be a subject of the verb, and object of the verb or both, a subject and an object of the verb.
In the examples below, nouns are bold:
Subject of the Verb: “Painters paint the wall.”
Object of the Verb: “Tina drank milk.”
Both: “Nurses assist doctors.”
This approach is also not workable sometimes. In sentences where pronouns are used at the beginning, the subject of the verb is not only a noun but also a pronoun.
Example: My patients are cautious.
Here, “patients” is a noun, but the subject of the verb is “My patients”. So, don’t rely only on this approach and look at the sentences well before concluding anything.