Online Writing Support
              OWS HOME               PARTS OF SPEECH               SENTENCE STRUCTURE               PUNCTUATION             USAGE             SELF-TEACHING UNITS             EXERCISES


Traditional grammarians define a noun as "a person, place, thing, or idea."

                Child designates a person; therefore, child is a noun.

                Similarly, democracy designates an idea; therefore, democracy is a noun.

In addition, nouns can be identified by the presence of signal words such as the.


Word order can also provide clues about nouns.  For example, in the following sentence, it is clear that the part of speech that will fit into slot #1 and slot #2 must be nouns:


Often, suffixes will suggest that a word is a noun.  For example, -tion,  -ness, -ment,  or -er  at the end of a word usually signify that the word is a noun, as in suggestion, happiness, involvement, and diner.

Nouns may be made plural, usually with the suffix -s or -es, as in books and foxes.

Nouns show ownership with the addition of an apostrophe and, sometimes, an additional -s, as in a book's pages, twenty students' essays.

Common nouns such as school, business, or person designate an entire class.

Proper nouns, on the other hand, designate a specific example of a class:  Towson University, Black and Decker Company, Joe.  Proper nouns are capitalized.

Nouns may be countable (1 fork, 2 forks, 3 forks, etc.) or non-countable (sugar, oil).

Nouns may signify concreteness (computer, fingernail) or abstractness (peace, friendship).


Functions of Nouns

Subject (S) - a noun or pronoun partnered with a predicate verb.

A subject

         1.  does an action with an action verb


        2.  exists with a verb of being


            3.  is renamed or described after a verb of being or a linking verb


            4.  is acted upon with a passive verb



Object of Preposition (OP) - a noun or pronoun answering "whom" or "what" after a preposition in a a prepositional phrase.



Direct Object (DO) - a noun or pronoun answering "whom" or "what" after an action verb.  A direct object "receives" or is the "object" of the action.



Retained Object (RO) - a noun or pronoun answering "whom" or "what" after a passive verb.



Indirect Object (IO) - a noun or pronoun answering "to whom/what" or "for whom/what" after an action verb.

An indirect object

  • always precedes a direct object

  • never has the word “to” or “for” stated



Subjective Complement (SC) - a noun, pronoun, or adjective that renames or describes (equals) the subject after a verb of being or a linking verb.



Objective Complement (OC) - a noun, pronoun, or adjective that renames or describes (equals) the direct object.

        Test for OC: insert "to be" between the DO and the OC



Appositive (App) - a noun or pronoun that renames another noun; An appositive is usually placed next to the noun it renames..


   Gourmet renames the noun Joe.  Therefore, gourmet is an appositive of Joe.

  When an appositive is not placed next to the noun it renames, the appositive is called a delayed appositive.



    A delayed appositive may rename the word it in some sentence constructions.


    In the above sentence, the appositive to meet you renames it.    It (to meet you) is a pleasure.

    In this sentence, pleasure is the subjective complement of it.

    Therefore, it = pleasure = to meet you.











For further information on these resources, contact
Margaret L. Benner

copyright  ©2011 Towson University, Writing Support Program. All rights reserved.