Nouns answer questions like “What is it?” and “Who is it?”
Nouns name things, people, places, and ideas: purses, gymnasts, theater, and democracy.
In some languages, like Spanish and Italian, nouns have gender. English, on the other hand, sometimes shows gender by changing the form of certain words.
Many nouns are not gender specific, meaning that the word could apply to men and to women. (Teacher, parent, doctor, friend, teenager, student, cook, cousin, engineer, and lawyer are examples.) If it is important for your audience to know the sex of your subject, you can clarify by writing, “The male cook made tortillas.”
What are common nouns?
Common nouns are nouns that are not proper nouns.
So what are proper nouns?
Proper nouns are capitalized. Why? Proper nouns are specific names or titles. For example, instead of saying, “The girl went on vacation,” I could say, “Mary traveled to Florida.” In English, proper nouns are used for names (of people, streets, countries, cities, bodies of water, etc.), titles of people, titles of books, months of the year, days of the week, holidays, and adjectives relating to nationality nouns.
What needs to be capitalized in the following sentences?
o janice read the red tent on saturday.
o In december, we celebrate christmas.
o The boy likes chinese food and french music.
Then what is a pronoun?
Pronouns take the place of nouns. They often replace proper nouns to add variety to our writing. For example, if you are writing a story about your brother (John), you do not want to write “John did this. John did that. John knew better.” Instead, you can write, “John broke the vase, and then he hid in his room.” The noun that the pronoun replaces is called the antecedent. Find the antecedent in the following sentences:
o Mary is a nurse. She works at Mercy Hospital.
o Ben is a teacher; he works at MSU.
o The students played basketball, and then they ate pizza.
Some pronouns to remember: I, me, my, mine, you, your, yours, he, him, his, she, her, hers, it, its, we, us, our, ours, they, them, their, theirs, myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, oneself, ourselves, yourselves, and themselves.
What is the difference between “he” and “him”—aside from the spelling?
He is the subject of the sentence, and “him” is used as a direct object.
What is a direct object?
Every sentence in English must have a subject and a verb. The subject is the person or thing doing the action. The direct object is the person or thing receiving the action.
o Beth sings a song.
o Jeremy made a cake.
o Steve painted the house.
What are countable and uncountable nouns?
Countable nouns can be counted.
Examples include cat, store, idea, and pen.
I have two cats. We went to eight stores. Julie had several good ideas. Three pens disappeared from my desk.
Some nouns are not countable.
Examples include sugar, air, rice, tea, knowledge, anger, love, and fear. (These words typically do not have a plural form.)
In English, we typically make nouns plural by adding –s or –es. How do you know when to add “s” and when to add “es”? If the word ends with two consonants, you typically need to add “es.”
A noun ending in –y preceded by a consonant makes the plural with –ies.
Irregular plural forms can confuse people. Some of these “rule breakers” are in the following list:
Some nouns are the same in the singular and plural forms.
(Sheep, fish, species, and aircraft are several examples.)
Words like water and melon can be joined together to form a different word: watermelon.
bed + room = bedroom boy + friend = boyfriend
police + man = policeman hair + cut = haircut
You must learn these words and others like them. Having the computer check the spelling will not help because the words are spelled correctly even when they are not joined together.
VERBS are action words
When you are writing or speaking, verbs can make your story more interesting. For example:
The girl walked to the store.
The girl sauntered to the store.
In our conversations, we often use verbs like got, went, and saw.
But we can use different verbs to be more specific. Did you “go to the park,” or did you “jog at the park?”
Think of verbs to replace the verbs in the following sentences:
o Jenny went to the movie.
o Jeff got a new cell phone.
o Tammy saw a lizard on the sidewalk.
Main verbs change form (tense) to indicate when something happened. If a word does not indicate tense, it is not a main verb. All main verbs have FIVE forms, with the exception of “BE,” which has eight.
Base Form: talk, sing
Past Tense: Yesterday I (talked, sang).
Past Participle:In the past, I have (talked, sung).
Present Participle: Right now I am (talking, singing).
-s Form: Usually he/she/it (talks, sings).
What is a gerund?
Gerunds are the –ing form of verbs that are used as nouns. They usually name an action occurring before the action of the main verb. (The following verbs can only be followed by a gerund: admit, appreciate, avoid, complete, deny, discuss, dislike, enjoy, finish, imagine, keep, miss, postpone, practice, put off, quit, recall, recommend, resist, risk, suggest, and tolerate.)
Verb + Gerund = She admits wanting the best seat.
(The wanting occurs BEFORE the admission.)
What is an infinitive?
Infinitives include the word “to.” These words name an action that occurs AFTER the action of the main verb. Some verbs that are followed by an infinitive include: afford, agree, arrange, ask, beg, choose, claim, decide, deserve, expect, fail, hope, manage, need, offer, plan, pretend, promise, refuse, want, and wish.
Verb + Infinitive = She wants to win.
(The winning would happen AFTER the wanting.)
What are helping (a.k.a. auxiliary) verbs?
Some helping verbs—mostly forms of be, have, and do—show time (will have been playing, has played) or are used for emphasis (does play). Forms of do are also used to ask questions (Do you play?).
be, am, is being, been do, does, did
are, was, were have, has, had
Other helping verbs, called modals, signify the manner (or mode) of an action. Unlike the auxiliaries be, have, and do, one-word modals such as may, must, and will are almost never used alone as main verbs, nor do they change form to show person or number. Modals DO NOT add –s endings, and two modals are never used together.
One-word modals: can, could, may, might, will, would, shall, should, and must.
Where are the modals and main verbs in the following sentences?
o Despite the weather, Jane will jog three miles.
o Rachel would give the candy to you if you asked nicely.
o You should write a letter to your grandparents.
These irregular verbs have to be memorized:
For a complete list, visit http://owl.purdue.edu and type in “Irregular verbs” in the search box.
Information for these handouts was compiled from the Online Writing Lab at Purdue, A Writer’s Resource, and Keys for Writers.