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Classification of nouns.

Nouns fall under two classes: (A) propernouns; (B) commonnouns.1


1 The name proper is from Lat. proprius ‘one’s own’. Hence a proper name means one’s own individual name, as distinct from a common name, that can be given to a class of individuals. The name common is from Lat. communis and means that which is shared by several things or individuals possessing some common characteristic.


A. Proper nounsare individual names given to separate persons or things. As regards their meaning proper nouns may be personal names (Mary, Peter, Shakespeare), geographical names (Moscow, London, the Caucasus), the names of the months and of the days of the week (February, Monday), names of ships, hotels, clubs etc.

A large number of nouns now proper were originally common nouns (Brown, Smith, Mason).

Proper nouns may change their meaning and become common nouns:


George went over to the table and took a sandwichand a glass of


В. Common nounsare names that can be applied to any individual of a class of persons or things (e. g. man, dog, book), collections of similar individuals or things regarded as asingle unit (e. g. peasantry, family), materials (e. g. snow, iron, cotton) or abstract notions (e. g. kindness, development).

Thus there are different groups of common nouns: classnouns, collectivenouns, nouns of materialand abstractnouns.

Nouns may also be classified from another point of view: nouns denoting things (the word thing is used in a broad sense) that can be counted are called countable nouns; nouns denoting things that cannot be counted are called uncountablenouns.


1. Class nounsdenote persons or things belonging to a class. They are countables and have two numbers: sinuglar and plural. They are generally used with an article.1


1 On the use of articles with class nouns see Chapter II, § 2, 3.



“Well, sir,” said Mrs. Parker, “I wasn’t in the shopabove a great deal.”


He goes to the part of the town where the shopsare. (Lessing)


2. Collective nounsdenote a number or collection of similar individuals or things regarded as a single unit.

Collective nouns fall under the following groups:

(a) nouns used only in the singular and denoting a number of things collected together and regarded as a single object: foliage, machinery.


It wasnot restful, that green foliage. (London)

Machinerynew to the industry in Australia wasintroduced for preparing

land. (Agricultural Gazette)


(b) nouns which are singular in form though plural in meaning: police, poultry, cattle, people, gentry. They are usually called nouns of multitude. When the subject of the sentence is a noun of multitude the verb used as predicate is in the plural:


I had no idea the police were so devilishly prudent. (Shaw)

Unless cattle are in good condition in calving, milk production will never

reach a high level. (Agricultural Gazette)

The weather was warm and the people were sitting at their doors. (Dickens)


(c) nouns that may be both singular and plural: family, crowd, fleet, nation. We can think of a number of crowds, fleets or different nations as well as of a single crowd, fleet, etc.


A small crowdis lined up to see the guests arrive. (Shaw)

Accordingly they were soon afoot, and walking in the direction of the scene of

action, towards which crowdsof people were already pouring from a variety

of quarters. (Dickens)


3. Nouns of materialdenote material: iron, gold, paper, tea, water. They are uncountables and are generally used without any article.1


1 On the use of articles with nouns of material see Chapter II, § 5, 6, 7.


There was a scent of honeyfrom the lime-trees in flower. (Galsworthy)

There was coffeestill in the urn. (Wells)


Nouns of material are used in the plural to denote different sorts of a given material.

...that his senior counted upon him in this enterprise, and had consigned a quantity of select winesto him... (Thackeray)


Nouns of material may turn into class nouns (thus becoming countables) when they come to express an individual object of definite shape.


C o m p a r e:


To the left were clean panes of glass.(Ch. Bronte)

“He came in here,” said the waiter looking at the light through the tumbler,

“ordered a glassof this ale.” (Dickens)

But the person in the glassmade a face at her, and Miss Moss went out.



4. Abstract nounsdenote some quality, state, action or idea: kindness, sadness, fight. They are usually uncountables, though some of them may be countables (e. g. idea, hour).2


2 On the use of articles with abstract nouns see Chapter II, § 8, 9, 10, 11.


Therefore when the youngsters saw that mother looked neither frightened nor

offended, they gathered new courage.(Dodge)

Accustomed to John Reed’s abuse — I never had an ideaof replying to it.

(Ch. Bronte)

It’s these people with fixed ideas.(Galsworthy)


Abstract nouns may change their meaning and become class nouns. This change is marked by the use of the article and of the plural number:


beauty a beauty beauties
sight a sight sights


He was responsive to beautyand here was cause to respond. (London)

She was a beauty.(Dickens)

...but she isn’t one of those horrid regular beauties. (Aldington)


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Morphological composition of nouns. | The category of number.

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