Nouns types: Getting the tricky parts right

Apart from proper nouns which have been discussed earlier on this site, we have other types of nouns that are pertinent to understanding what nouns are. To reiterate, a noun is simply the particular person, place, thing or concept an expression talks about.

Also read: Proper noun: understanding the complexities

These are the other types of nouns:

Common noun: Unlike a proper noun, this is a general noun that refers to a person, a place or thing, e.g. father, broom, mountain, church, television, mast, road, country. When you mention people, places and things in general, you are referring to common nouns.


* church is a common noun, but Evangelical Church of West Africa (ECWA) is a proper noun.

* country is a common noun, but Chile is a proper noun.

* road is a common noun, but Achiampong Road is a proper noun.

These examples assert that common nouns are the general terms which have specific names under them. They are larger units and are common terms, so when we bring out specific terms from them, they become proper nouns.

Note: Generally, nouns are classified into common and proper nouns.

Concrete noun: As implied, a concrete noun is what we can see and touch. It is not a mental image created only in our minds, it is physical.

Examples are: stone, bag, table, fish, coat, iron, gun, gate, refrigerator, car, water.

Abstract noun: This is the exact opposite of a concrete noun—it can’t be seen or touched. It is something we feel, imagine or experience like an emotion, a quality or a condition, e.g. happiness, luck, anger, danger, fear, time, appreciation, love, sin, humour, honour.

Abstract nouns are active representations of thoughts, feelings and experiences after being conceived in the human mind.

Collective noun (mass noun): This is simply a noun that forms a unit, under which other entities exist. It is a general name for a group of people or things.

Examples: family, staff, herd, fruit, library, choir, army, government, people, crowd, mob, band, flock, bunch, crate, galaxy, forest.

Most collective nouns are used as singular entities and are used with singular verbs, but some are always used as plurals—police and people being the most common.

Generally in British English, it is acceptable to use most collective nouns as either singular or plural, depending on the emphasis, while Americans tend to use singular verbs for collective nouns. But on police and people, British and American English agree they are plurals.

However, some reputable media organizations are constantly using police as a singular collective noun and it’s spreading gradually. But at present, police is still considered a plural noun by renowned dictionaries.

Also read: Compound nouns: understanding the basics


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