Level 5 is the fifth workbook in the elementary series. Lesson 1 teaches about nouns. A noun names a person, place, thing, or idea. A noun can take the determiner the. Most nouns have singular and plural forms. Most nouns also have possessive forms.
A Form-Function English Grammar
What is a noun?
Notional grammars define the noun as a word that names a person, place, thing, or idea.
Teacher, student, and linguist are nouns that name people. Library, school, and park are nouns that name places. Book, computer, and sweatshirt are nouns that name things. Happiness, joy, and curiosity are nouns that name ideas.
But remember that not all things and ideas are nouns. Gerunds, infinitives, and noun clauses express things and ideas. All three also perform many of the same functions as nouns. But gerunds, infinitives, and noun clauses are not nouns. See Lessons 10 and 32.
In addition to naming people, places, things, and ideas, nouns are open class words, meaning new nouns are added to the language readily and constantly. For example, tree has been in the language since the Old English period. Blog was first recorded as a new English noun in 1999.
Nouns are also lexical class words, meaning nouns express discernable lexical meanings. In other words, most nouns are easy to define. For example, a tree is a large plant with a woody stem called a trunk that has leaves or needles.
Most nouns are also easy to draw, which indicates that nouns are lexical words. For example, these drawings show a sculptor, university, elephant, and sadness, all of which are nouns.
One test for finding nouns is that the determiner the can go before a noun: the sculptor, the university, the elephant, the sadness.
Nouns also show number. Number is a grammatical category that expresses count distinctions. In other words, most nouns can be counted.
English nouns are singular or plural. Singular means “one.” Plural means “not one.” Plural does not just mean “more than one.” English uses plural forms for zero and negative quantities, both of which are “not one” but neither of which are “more than one.” For example, water freezes at 0 degrees Celsius or the wind chill was -10 degrees. The plural degrees is used with the numbers zero and -10, both of which are less than one. The most accurate definition of plural is therefore “not one.” The determiner a or an and the numeral one can go before a singular noun. Other numerals including zero and two can go before a plural noun.
Singular nouns are unmarked. Plural nouns are predominantly marked. Markedness refers to the state in which one form is more distinctly identified (marked) in comparison to another (unmarked) form.
Strong nouns take an -s or -es suffix to form the plural. Most nouns take the -s suffix. One lamp. Two lamps. One tray. Two trays. One book. Two books.
Nouns that need an extra syllable in the plural take the -es suffix. One box. Two boxes. One glass. Two glasses. One couch. Two couches.
For nouns that end in the grapheme <y> (not a diagraph that contains <y>), the <y> toggles with <i> and then the -es suffix affixes to the end of the noun. One fairy. Two fairies. One library. Two libraries. One baby. Two babies. Notice that the spelling changes but the pronunciation follows the same rule as for adding the -s suffix to most strong nouns.
For some nouns spelled with a final <f> or <fe> in the singular, the base of the plural is spelled with a final <ve>. Then the -s suffix affixes to the plural base. One leaf. Two leaves. One calf. Two calves. One loaf. Two loaves. If you are unsure if the noun needs a <ve> in the plural, check a dictionary. Most nouns that end in <f> take only the -s suffix in the plural.
Some strong nouns spelled with final consonant and <o> take the -es suffix to form the plural. One tomato. Two tomatoes. One potato. Two potatoes. But most strong nouns spelled with a final <o> take the -s suffix in the plural. One piano. Two pianos. One taco. Two tacos. Again check a dictionary if you are unsure.
Not all nouns take the -s or -es suffix to form the plural. The vowel changes in a mutated plural noun to form the plural. Sometimes mutated plural nouns also undergo slight spelling changes. One goose. Two geese. One mouse. Two mice. One man. Two men.
Zero inflection plural nouns have the same singular and plural form. One bison. Two bison. One reindeer. Two reindeer. One fish. Two fish.
Weak plural nouns take an -en suffix to form the plural. One child. Two children. One ox. Two oxen.
Borrowed plural nouns are borrowed from foreign languages. The plural is formed according to the rules of the language from which the loanword is borrowed. One cactus. Two cacti. One fungus. Two fungi or fungi.
Irregular plural nouns are nouns whose plural form does not follow any other plural formation rules. One person. Two people. One die. Two dice.
In addition to showing number, nouns also show possession. Possessive nouns are nouns that indicate an owning of or some other relationship to another word or phrase. Possessive nouns are formed by putting the apostrophe <s> or apostrophe clitic on the end of the noun.
When the noun ends with the letter <s>, put only an apostrophe on the end of the noun to form the possessive. When the noun ends with any other letter, put an apostrophe <s> on the end of the noun.
The nouns boy, girl, child, and children do not end in <s> and therefore take the apostrophe <s> in the possessive. The nouns boys, girls, boss, and bosses do end in <s> and therefore take only the apostrophe.
Entire noun phrases also have possessive forms in English. The same rules apply. When the noun phrase ends with the letter <s>, put only an apostrophe on the end of the noun phrase to form the possessive. When the noun phrase ends with any other letter, put an apostrophe <s> on the end of the noun phrase. The noun phrase Queen of England does not end in an <s> and therefore takes the apostrophe <s> in the possessive. The noun phrase King of the Belgians does end in <s> and therefore takes only the apostrophe.
Most nouns can be counted. Most nouns therefore have singular and plural forms. Nouns with singular and plural forms are count nouns. However, some nouns cannot be counted.
A noncount noun is a noun that cannot be counted and that lacks a plural form. Most nouns in English are count nouns. However, some nouns such as furniture and equipment are noncount nouns. Many nouns that express ideas such as happiness and knowledge are also noncount nouns. Despite a lack of plural forms, noncount nouns are still nouns. Noncount nouns name things and ideas. Noncount nouns also take the determiner the: the furniture, the equipment, the happiness, the knowledge.
So, what is a noun?
A noun names a person, place, thing, or idea. A noun can take the determiner the. Most nouns have singular and plural forms. Most nouns also have possessive forms.
Now practice your knowledge of nouns by completing the exercises in Lesson 1 of A Form-Function English Grammar: Level 5, pages 4 through 9.