Nouns

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Nouns

Nouns function as the head of a noun phrase (for example, fried green tomatoes). Noun phrases typically function as complements to the verb (for example, Jules loves fried green tomatoes).

Nouns are typically used to refer to humans (for example, person), animals (for example, elephant), objects (for example, sofa), and abstract concepts (for example, truth). These are all examples of common nouns. There are many suffixes that derive nouns from other nouns or other parts of speech. Some examples include: -age for example, usage; -ment for example, enjoyment; -ist for example, artist; -er for example, painter; -ship for example, citizenship.

The class of nouns also includes proper nouns (for example, Maisy) and pronouns (for example, you). Proper nouns are written with a capital letter and do not usually inflect for number. They generally denote proper names of people or locations (for example, Launceston). Pronouns represent a noun or noun phrase which has already been mentioned or is understood in the context of the sentence. There are different types of pronouns: the ones most people would think of, such as; personal pronouns (for example, you), possessive pronouns (for example, our, ours), reflexive pronouns (for example, herself), reciprocal pronouns (for example, each other).

Inflection on nouns marks number (singular or plural), case (with nominative case marking the subject, accusative case marking the object and genitive case marking the possessor), and for pronouns it also marks gender (masculine, feminine, neuter).

Contents

1. Number

2. Case

3. Gender

4. Pronouns


Related pages

Parts of speech

Number

Most nouns inflect to distinguish between singular and plural (for example, one cat, three cats). These are called count nouns.

Proper nouns do not usually inflect for number. An exception is when we are talking about more than one entity with the same name, for example, There are two Heathers in my class.

Some common nouns do not inflect for number. These are called invariable nouns and there are several different types: nouns with fixed number, for example, deer, which looks like a singular noun but can also be used as a plural three deer, and scissors, which looks like a plural but can also be used to refer to a single pair; non-count nouns (also called mass nouns) for example, bread, collective nouns for example, police, and abstract nouns, for example, generosity.

Many nouns can have either a count or non-count interpretation, depending on the context, for example, Would you like some cake (non-count)? I've had three cakes (count).

There are several methods for encoding number for nouns.

Case

Case denotes the role of the noun in the sentence. English has relatively little case marking compared to other European languages. Common and Proper nouns can only carry genitive case marking, used to indicate possession. Genitive case is marked by the genitive suffix -'s (or s' if the noun already has the plural suffix -s), for example, Nick's (toys), children's (toys) and those boys' (toys). The genitive suffix is phonologically realised as /s/, /z/, or /əz/.

Personal pronouns are marked for more grammatical cases than common nouns or proper nouns. They are marked for nominative case (marks the subject of the clause I shut the door), accusative case (marks the object, acted on by the verb The car nearly hit me) and genitive case (marks a possessor Actually, it was my fault or Actually the fault was mine).

Gender

Only pronouns inflect for gender, and the form usually reflects the biological sex of the referent, i.e. the noun or noun phrase the pronoun represents. This gives us the masculine he, feminine she and neuter it. The used of gender in pronouns is not always completely straightforward. The neuter form it is used in some contexts where the biological sex of the referent is unknown (for example an unborn baby) or treated as insignificant (for example with many animals). In addition, masculine or feminine gender is sometimes assigned to inanimates. For example, cars or boats are sometimes referred to as feminine she/her.

Pronouns

The grammatical marking of the basic personal pronouns is shown in the table below. notice there are some forms which are used in more than one grammatical category. The category of 'person' is useful in describing pronouns. The first person refers to the speaker, I, the second person refers to the hearer you and the third person refers to other entities he, she, it. The terms 'person' and 'personal pronouns' are not restricted to humans – pronouns can refer to animals, objects and abstract concepts.

Personal Pronoun Paradigm

CASE:

Nominative

Accusative

Genitive

NUMBER

PERSON

GENDER

 

 

Dependent

Independent

Singular

1

I

me

my

mine

2

you

your

yours

3

Masculine

he

him

his

Feminine

she

her

her

hers

Neuter

it

its

Plural

1

we

us

our

ours

2

you

your

yours

3

they

them

their

theirs

Genitive pronouns can be either dependent, i.e. standing for the possessor only, and appearing with a following noun (for example, Ben and Vera's house, their house), or independent, i.e. standing for the whole NP, so occurring without a following noun (for example, the house is Ben and Vera's, the house is theirs).

Some other types of pronouns found in English include:

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Nouns

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