Inglés

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Nouns

A noun is the name of anything: book, John, sky, team.

There are four classes of nouns: common, proper, abstract and collective.

  1. The common noun is the name common to all objects of the same kind: book, stone.
  2. The proper noun is the name of a particular person, place or thing: Laura, Mexico.
  3. The abstract noun is the name of a quality or state: happiness, fear, whiteness.
  4. The collective noun is the name of a number of things taken as one: class, group, team.

1. Gender

Gender is considered as a grammatical classification according to sex.

There are four genders in English: masculine, feminine, common and neuter.

  • The masculine gender, used for all males: boy, man, lion, bull.
  • The feminine gender, used for all females: girl, woman, lioness, cow.
  • The common gender, where the noun has the same form for masculine and feminine (the sex cannot be told from the form of the word): child, parent, friend, singer, artist.
  • The neuter gender, used for inanimate objects: table, house, pencil. A couple of exceptions are ships, and countries when they are referred to by name.

Forming the feminine

There are three usual methods to form the feminine from the masculine.

  • By adding ess at the end of the word. If the word ends in er or or, the vowel is often dropped.

    lion lioness

    jew jewess

    tiger tigress

    actor actress

    manager manageress

    master mistress

  • By using a different word.

    husband wife

    brother sister

    king queen

    lord lady

    bull cow

    horse mare

  • By prefixing or affixing a word.

    manservant maidservant

    landlord landlady

There are a few irregular forms:

executor executrix

testator testatrix

hero heroine

2. Numbers

There are two numbers: singular and plural.

The plural of a noun is usually formed by adding s to the singular.

boy boys

horse horses

Exceptions

  • Words that end in o, ch, sh, ss or x, add es.

    potato potatoes

    church churches

    brush brushes

    Foreign or abbreviated words ending in o, just add s.

    photo photos

    piano pianos

    dynamo dynamos

  • Words that end in y preceded by a consonant, change the y to ies.

    fly flies

    lady ladies

    baby babies

  • Words that end in f or fe, change to ves (actually there are twelve of these nouns: calf, half, knife, leaf, life, loaf, self, sheaf, shelf, thief, wife and wolf).

    leaf leaves

    wife wives

    wolf wolves

    All the other nouns just add the s.

    cliff cliffs

    gulf gulfs

    chief chiefs

    But some can take either s or ves.

    scarf scarfs/scarves

    wharf wharfs/wharves

  • Some nouns form their plural by a vowel change.

    man men

    foot feet

    mouse mice

  • Three nouns add en or ren.

    child children

    ox oxen

    brother brethren

  • Some nouns (like some fish and animals) do not change: deer, fish, grouse, heathen, salmon, sheep and trout.

    There were two deer crossing the road.

  • Words that retain their original Greek or Latin forms follow the respective rules.

    basis bases

    datum data

    phenomenon phenomena

    But some common Greek or Latin words follow the rules of English.

    dogma dogmas

    formula formulas

    gymnasium gymnasiums

Special cases

  • Some nouns have two plurals (with different meaning).

    brother brothers / brethren (figuratively)

    genius geniuses / genii (magic spirits)

    index indexes / indices (a mathematical term)

    penny pennies / pence (value, when the amount only is being considered)

  • Some nouns have no plural: advice, furniture, information, knowledge, mathematics, news, progress.

    This is good news.

  • Some nouns have no singular: billiards, clothes, contents, goods, people, thanks, scissors, wages, etc.

    There are people helping at the hospital. These clothes are dirty.

3. Countable and uncountable nouns

Countable nouns refer to things that can be counted: pencils, apples, cars, etc.

Uncountable nouns refer to things that cannot be counted: milk, money, music, sugar, water, weather, etc.

  • Countable nouns can be singular or plural.

    The tree is big. The trees are big.

  • Uncountable nouns can only be singular.

    The milk is cold. The weather was good.

Expressions of quantity

  • Countable nouns are used with some in affirmative sentences, and with any in questions and negatives.

    There are some books at the table. Are there any books at the table? There aren’t any books at the table.

    Uncountable nouns are used with some in affirmative sentences, and with any in questions and negatives.

    There is some milk left. Is there any milk left? There isn’t any milk left.

  • Countable nouns are used with many in questions and negatives.

    How many books are there? There aren’t many books.

    Uncountable nouns are used with much in questions and negatives.

    How much sugar is there? There isn’t much sugar.

  • Both countable and uncountable nouns are used with a lot of and lots of in affirmative sentences.

    I have a lot of books. I have lots of books.

    There is a lot of sugar. There is lots of sugar.

  • Countable nouns are used with a few.

    This expression is used to denote a small number (or what the speaker considers to be a small number).

    I have a few books. I saw him a few days ago.

    Uncountable nouns are used with a little.

    This expression is used to denote a small amount (or what the speaker considers to be a small amount).

    I need a little sugar. He is a little worried about the exam.

4. Compound nouns

A compound noun occurs when two nouns (or a noun + other kind of word) are together. In this case the first noun works as an adjective (a describing word).

  • Usually the last word is made plural on a compound noun.

    armchair armchairs

    fireman firemen

  • If man or woman is prefixed, both parts are made plural.

    manservant menservants

  • Compound nouns formed with prepositions or adverbs make only the first word plural.

    father-in-law fathers-in-law

    passer-by passers-by

  • If the compound noun has an adjective as the last word, the first word is usually made plural.

    court-martial courts-martial

5. Possessive case

The case refers to the relation between the noun and some other word. The possessive case is used to denote a possessor/possessed relationship.

Case endings

In the possessive case English nouns have case ending.

  • For singular nouns and plural nouns not ending in s, an ’s (apostrophe + s) is used.

    John’s dog. The men’s dogs.

  • For plural nouns ending in s, a simple apostrophe is used.

    The girls’ dolls. The ladies’ bathroom.

  • Classical names ending in s and a few English names add only the apostrophe.

    Hercules’ adventures. Keats’ poetry.

    But there are exceptions.

    Venus’s beauty. St. James’s Park.

  • Compound nouns are normally treated as one word.

    My father-in-law’s car.

Use of the possessive case

  • The possessive case is used mainly when the possessor is a person or an animal.

    John’s book. The dog’s leash.

  • When the possessor is a thing, the word of is normally used.

    The roof of the church. The legs of the table.

  • If the possessor noun is immediately followed by a phrase or a clause, the of rule is followed.

    The doll of the girl is pretty (not: the girl’s doll is pretty).

    The dog of the boy with the cap (not: the boy’s dog with the cap).

  • With many well-known combinations it is common to put the two nouns together using the first noun as an adjective (often used to indicate the position of something).

    Dining-room table. Kitchen sink. Street lamp.

    This may also happen:

    • With names of towns.

      New York police.

    • When there is a connection with time.

      Winter sports, summer holidays.

    • To indicate the use of clothes, equipment, vehicles, etc.

      Tennis shoes. Golf clubs. Coffee cup.

    • With some kinds of stories.

      Adventure stories. Detective stories.

    Avoid using a possessive form for the first noun in compound nouns.

    business students (not: business’ students).

  • The possessive form is used with expressions of time (second, minute, hour, day, night, week, fortnight, month, year).

    A month’s salary. Today’s paper.

6. Forms of nouns

Nouns can be derived from other kind of words, like other nouns, adjectives or verbs. These nouns can generally be identified by their endings.

From adjectives and nouns

Typical suffixes of nouns derived from adjectives or other nouns include:

-ce:

confident confidence

silent silence

patient patience

violent violence

-ism:

critic criticism

egotistical egotism

magnetic magnetism

vandal vandalism

-ist:

art artist

capital capitalist

journal journalist

science scientist

-ity:

available availability

possible possibility

real reality

suitable suitability

-ness:

blind blindness

cheerful cheerfulness

friendly friendliness

weak weakness

-y:

accurate accuracy

efficient efficiency

frequent frequency

honest honesty

-ship:

friend friendship

leader leadership

member membership

relation relationship

-hood:

child childhood

father fatherhood

mother motherhood

parent parenthood

From verbs

Typical suffixes of nouns derived from verbs include:

-al:

approve approval

arrive arrival

propose proposal

refuse refusal

-ance:

accept acceptance

appear appearance

assist assistance

perform performance

-ation:

associate association

demonstrate demonstration

qualificate qualification

starvate starvation

-er/-or:

act actor

paint painter

sail sailor

write writer

-ment:

arrange arrangement

astonish astonishment

encourage encouragement

replace replacement

-tion:

describe description

connect connection

object objection

reflect reflection

While the suffix al occurs in some nouns, it is actually more common to see it in adjectives (marital, unusual).

There are however, derived nouns with different suffixes.

behave behaviour

bored boredom

complain complaint

delighted delight

fail failure

high height

hungry hunger

magic magician

mix mixture

proud pride

strong strength

thirsty thirst

traitor treason

wealthy wealth

wise wisdom

7. Exercises

You may use a dictionary to answer these exercises.

Indicate what class of noun is each of the following.

John

people

peacefulness

love

angel

crowd

beauty

France

glass

eye

Indicate the feminine counterpart of the following nouns.

cock

uncle

conductor

wizard

master

monk

nephew

horse

widower

stepfather

What is the plural form of the following nouns.

tomato

sheep

wine

coffee

thief

hair

hoof

tooth

actress

people

Give a noun opposite in meaning to each of the following nouns.

hero

failure

liberty

joy

defeat

question

fear

sickness

knowledge

exposed

Match each collective noun in the first column with a line in the second column.

army

1. bees

audience

2. books

congregation

3. cattle

constellation

4. fish

crew

5. people in church listening to a sermon

crowd

6. people listening to a concert

flock

7. people determining if a person is guilty or not

herd

8. persons

jury

9. sailors

library

10. sheep

pack

11. soldiers

shoal

12. stars

swarm

13. wolves

Each of the following sentences has one or more errors. Find them and correct them.

  1. Mathematics are a difficult subject.
  2. This is the Mexico’s President’s house.
  3. Her knowledges of history are considerable.
  4. The actress is going to celebrate his birthday in Europe.
  5. My son is going to a new school, so he has only a little friends.
  6. That coffee’s cup is big.
  7. These news are bad.
  8. A pack of wolfs chased some deers through the forest.
  9. She was glad to receive my advices.
  10. My brother has a lots of books.
  11. I had to replace my kitchen’s sink because it was rusty.

Match a line in the first column with a line in the second column to form a suitable compound noun.

alarm

1. ache

bed

2. belt

book

3. bin

can

4. board

cigarette

5. brush

credit

6. card

dust

7. case

ear

8. clock

earth

9. coat

fire

10. drier

hair

11. driver

living

12. engine

message

13. hour

pocket

14. lighter

rain

15. lights

rush

16. model

safety

17. money

screw

18. opener

sign

19. post

stomach

20. quake

sun

21. recorder

tape

22. ring

time

23. room

tooth

24. set

top

25. table

traffic

26. time

Put the corresponding noun of the following root words:

able

careless

depress

embarrass

fluent

happy

improve

kind

owner

permanent

predicate

probable

pronunciate

renew

selfish

shy

silent

sportman

survive

translate

Rewrite the following sentences using the correct noun (based on the word in brackets).

  1. We had a good (relation) for several years.
  2. She doesn’t like to go out much; she says there is too much (violent) in the streets.
  3. Mathematics was my main (weak) at school.
  4. He gave a very lovely (describe) of his (child).
  5. Russia used to be a (common) country.
  6. Most (art) in the world remain unknown.
  7. He was condemned for (traitor) and sentenced to five years in jail.
  8. People who get lost in the desert usually die of (thirsty).
  9. I was not allowed to enter the club because my (member) had expired.
  10. What would be the (possible) that (science) worked in the (develop) of a new (transport) system?