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Nouns (Two mouses were eating my foots while two mans knocked out my teeths)

Updated on December 21, 2013

 Okay, kids. It's July 1, and it feels appropriate to start at the "beginning." Most texts on English grammar begin with nouns. Let's be boring and be like them. Not.

However, it will be our content.

Most people know that nouns refer to a person, place, or thing. What many people neglect is that ideas (abstract) can also be nouns. Abstract nouns refer to concepts such as love, jealousy, friendship, intimacy, and trust. You cannot literally see these things. You can see them enacted (a display of love, the comfort between two people, etc.). But, for now, let's stick with concrete nouns - those that can be seen.

Nouns are broken down into a few categories.

Common nouns refer to general people, places, or things. In my office here, the following are nouns: computer, keyboard, light, reference book, calculator, scrap paper, dishtowel (yeah, it's a mess in here. I could go with my list, but I think you get the point)...

Those examples won't help prove this point. Good move, Cogswell.

Here are some common nouns: book, CD, and computer.

Proper nouns refer to a particular person, place, or thing. Thus, those common nouns can change to:

Not Quite What I Was Planning (edited by Smith Magazine)

Under Rug Swept by Alanis Morrisette

emachines (My computer intentionally uses lowercase letters, but notice how the titles and my favorite angst-ridden singer have capital letters in their name.)

I'm going to focus today on just common nouns and really only some common mistakes and rules. We can do it, kids.

Singular nouns refer to one of an item. Plural nouns refer to more than one of an item. For many (but certainly not all!) words, an "s" can be added to a word to make it plural. 

book - books; computer - computers; Goofy doll - Goofy dolls

I swear I only have one Goofy doll.

If the singular word ends in S, X, CH, or SH, add ES to make the word plural.

boss - bosses; fox - foxes; church - churches; wish - wishes

Some words do not follow any of these rules. The title of this hub features four mistakes in over-generalizing the rule. Those words should be mice, feet, men, and teeth.

Ready for way too many rules when it comes making words plural?

If the noun ends in F or FE, change the F to V and add ES.

life to lives; thief to thieves; knife to knives; wife to wives (I promise that the combination of the last two is purely to prove a point.)

HOWEVER, if you have more than one belief, you have "beliefs." If you apply the rule, the word becomes the verb 'believes.' More than one roof is spelled "roofs."

Why oh why... If the noun ends in consonant (B, C, D, F, etc.) Y, change the Y to I and add S.

baby - babies; lady - ladies; story - stories

Yet, if a vowel (A, E, I, O, U) appears before the Y, simply add an S.

"Boies" would look silly. Boys will do. If that term becomes part of the urban dictionary, I want credit.

Deer, fish, moose, and sheep do not like to change. You use the same word no matter if you were referring to one or seventeen.

Some words are always plural, such as clothes, eyeglasses, scissors, and tweezers.

Compound (two things put together) nouns always place the plural on the second word.

human beings ("Humans being" is too artistic for my tastes.) and test tubes are examples of compound words (and again, completely chosen at random)

We're almost there!

Hyphenated compound nouns put an S on the main noun.

Two attorneys together are "attorneys-at-law." When I hear "passer-bys," I cringe. Those people are passers-by. The same rule applies for runners-up.

One last thing. Many of our adopted words come from other languages. Here are four that come from Latin and keep their original language form in English.

One single graduate from a college (or other educational setting) is an alumnus. Members of the graduating class, collectively, become alumni.

One piece of data is called a datum.

A television is an example of a medium. When paired with the DVD player, we suddenly have media.

One miraculous event is a phenomenon (a fun word to say), while a series of such events is called a phenomena.

Okay, off to feed the fishes.




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