It's not easy to describe a noun. In simple terms, nouns are "things" (and verbs are "actions"). Like food. Food
(noun) is something you eat (verb). Or happiness. Happiness (noun) is something you want (verb). Or human being.
A human being (noun) is something you are (verb).
What are Nouns?
The simple definition is: a person, place or thing. Here are some examples:
- person: man, woman, teacher, John, Mary
- place: home, office, town, countryside, America
- thing: table, car, banana, money, music, love, dog, monkey
The problem with this definition is that it does not explain why "love" is a noun but can also be a verb.
Another (more complicated) way of recognizing a noun is by its:
1. Noun Ending
There are certain word endings that show that a word is a noun, for example:
- -ity > nationality
- -ment > appointment
- -ness > happiness
- -ation > relation
- -hood > childhood
But this is not is not true for the word endings of all nouns. For example, the noun "spoonful" ends in -ful, but the adjective
"careful" also ends in -ful.
2. Position in Sentence
We can often recognise a noun by its position in the sentence.
Nouns often come after a determiner (a determiner is a word like a, an, the, this, my, such):
- a relief
- an afternoon
- the doctor
- this word
- my house
- such stupidity
Nouns often come after one or more adjectives:
- a great relief
- a peaceful afternoon
- the tall, Indian doctor
- this difficult word
- my brown and white house
- such crass stupidity
3. Function in a Sentence
Nouns have certain functions (jobs) in a sentence, for example:
- subject of verb: Doctors work hard.
- object of verb: He likes coffee.
- subject and object of verb: Teachers teach students.
But the subject or object of a sentence is not always a noun. It could be a pronoun or a phrase. In the sentence "My doctor
works hard", the noun is "doctor" but the subject is "My doctor".
What are Verbs?
The verb is king in English. The shortest sentence contains a verb. You can make a one-word sentence with a verb, for example:
"Stop!" You cannot make a one-word sentence with any other type of word.
Verbs are sometimes described as "action words". This is partly true. Many verbs give the idea of action, of "doing" something.
For example, words like run, fight, do and work all convey action.
But some verbs do not give the idea of action; they give the idea of existence, of state, of "being". For example, verbs
like be, exist, seem and belong all convey state.
A verb always has a subject. (In the sentence "John speaks English", John is the subject and speaks is the
verb.) In simple terms, therefore, we can say that verbs are words that tell us what a subject does or is; they
- action (Ram plays football.)
- state (Anthony seems kind.)
There is something very special about verbs in English. Most other words (adjectives, adverbs, prepositions etc) do not
change in form (although nouns can have singular and plural forms). But almost all verbs change in form. For example, the
verb to work has five forms:
- to work, work, works, worked, working
Of course, this is still very few forms compared to some languages which may have thirty or more forms for a single verb.