A noun is a word that represents a person, a place, or a thing. A thing in this definition can be a physical entity or it can be an abstract idea. A noun may be used as a subject of a sentence, as a direct object, as an indirect object, or it may be used as the object of a preposition. Some additional noun applications are addressed below. Some examples of noun usage appear in the following sentences.

noun as subject

Carpenters drive nails with air powered guns.

Blackhawk was a famous American Indian.

If it were Friday, John would be here.

Carpenters is the subject of the first sentence. Blackhawk is the subject of the second sentence. Blackhawk is the name of a person. A noun that represents the name of a person or a specific place is a proper noun. Some other nouns are also proper nouns, e.g., September, Easter, Holocaust. A proper noun is capitalized regardless of its position in the sentence. John is the subject of the third sentence.

noun as direct object

Mr. Liu washed the car.

The authorities commended Roberta.

Identify a direct object by asking what or whom.

First sentence. Mr. Liu washed what? Answer: car. Car is the direct object of the verb washed.

Second sentence. The authorities commended whom? Answer: Roberta. Roberta is the direct object of the verb commended.

noun as indirect object

I sent Stephanie the camera.

He bought the dog a kennel.

Identify an indirect object by asking to what, for what, or to whom, for whom.

First sentence. I sent the camera to whom? Answer: Stephanie. Stephanie is the indirect object.

Second sentence. He bought a kennel for what? Answer: dog. Dog is the indirect object.

noun as object of a preposition

He pulled the little red wagon to the store.

From her perspective, the meeting was a success.

First sentence. The preposition is to, and the object of that preposition is the noun store.

Second sentence: The preposition is from, and the object of that preposition is the noun perspective.

predicate noun

An intransitive verb cannot accept an object. A noun that follows an intransitive verb and completes the meaning of a sentence is called a complement. The word complement means to complete. A sentence has a subject and a predicate. Predicate is a generic term that includes those parts of the sentence that explain the subject of the sentence. The noun that follows an intransitive verb and completes the predicate may also be called a predicate noun or predicate nominative.

Note that a predicate noun is an alternate word for the subject of the sentence.

Mr. Chiao is a violinist.

I am a candidate.

Mr. Martinez will be governor.

In the first sentence above Mr. Chiao is the subject, and violinist is the predicate noun. The subject of the second sentence is I, and the predicate noun is candidate. Mr. Martinez is the subject of the third sentence, and the predicate noun is governor.

appositive noun

Appositive means near. In English grammar an appositive is a noun or pronoun placed near another noun or pronoun. The appositive enhances our understanding of the original noun or pronoun.

My sister, Ann, is in town for the reunion.

Miguel, the valedictorian, will deliver the commencement oration.

"We, the people. . . ."

In the first sentence above, my sister is the subject of the sentence, and Ann is the appositive. Miguel is the subject of the second sentence, and valedictorian is the appositive.

noun as possessive modifier

A noun can be used to modify another noun. That is, a noun can function as an adjective or adverb. A noun can also convey a sense of possession. Consider the following example.

The town's water supply is in jeopardy.

The word town is a noun. In the sentence above the word town's identifies which water supply is in jeopardy. Town's is possessive case. The town possesses the water supply.

noun functioning as an adjective

The water pump is broken.

The word water is a noun, but in this application it functions as an adjective that describes the kind of pump.

noun functioning as an adverb

I walked home.

The word home is a noun, but in this application it functions as an adverb that defines where I walked.

noun description

class proper noun, or common noun

number singular, or plural

gender feminine, or masculine, or neuter

case nominative, or objective, or possessive

syntax grammatical relationship of the noun to other words in the sentence.

In generations past the first six or eight years of public education were conducted in schools that were frequently called "grammar schools." Students were often rigorously instructed in English grammar. A student might have been asked to parse a sentence. Parse means to take apart and describe as a noun could be described using the information given above. The term parse is currently (circa 2003) enjoying popularity among computer programmers.

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