English Grammar Noun Rules

 A Noun is a word used as a name of a person, place or thing. There are five kinds of Noun–

  1. Proper Noun
  2. Common Noun
  3. Collective Noun
  4.  Abstract Noun
  5. Material Noun.

Following are certain rules of grammar regarding nouns that would be useful in a competitive exams.

Proper nouns are sometimes used as common nouns

For example :

  •  Amitabh is Gandhiji of our class. (Incorrect)
  • Amitabh is the Gandhiji of our class. (Correct)

Here Gandhiji does not mean Mahatma Gandhi. The word here stands for the possessor of the qualities that Gandhiji is most known for truth and non-violence. Thus Gandhiji is being used as a metaphorical common noun. Some nouns have the same form both in singular as well as in plural.

Following are rules regarding the number of the noun

For example:

  • Deer was caught
  • Deer were caught.

Here, the singular and plural form of the noun Deer is same. Like Deer there are other nouns that have the same form in singular as well as plural form.

For example: sheep, deer, apparatus, species, series, hundred, dozen, hair etc. Preceding adjectives and articles decide whether the word is used in the singular form or plural form.

For example:

  • He paid eight hundred rupees for this pair of shoes.
  • India again lost the series.

Nouns denoting large numbers are used both in singular and plural form

For example:

  • a) Three hundred people attended the function.
  • b) Hundreds of people attended the party.

In sentence a), ‘hundred’ is preceded by number ‘three’. So ‘hundred’ will take no plural form. Word ‘three hundred’ indicates plurality. But in sentence b), ‘hundred’ is not preceded by any number. So to indicate plurality, we will write ‘hundreds’.

So, rule is that when words like hundred, dozen, thousand, pair, score are not preceded by any word denoting number then they take the plural form. Otherwise not.

Consider some more examples :

  • a) Coca-Cola paid lakhs of rupees to Aamir Khan for promoting their product.
  • b) I brought two dozen bananas.

Tell which sentence is correct?

1. Which sentence is correct?
  • a) Since long no news has been heard.
  • b) Since long no news have been heard.

Sentence a) is correct. The reason is that some nouns are always used as singular though they look like plural nouns. That’s why we should never use the ‘plural verb with these words.

Other similar words are politics, mathematics, physics, gallows, means, billiards, ethics, summons, innings.

For example :

  • a) Politics is not my cup of tea.
  • b) I received summons.
  • c) Sachin once again played a superb innings
2. Which sentence is correct?
  • a) The spectacles that you are wearing are really nice.
  • b) The spectacles that you are wearing is really nice.

Sentence a) is correct. The reason being that some noun words are always used in the plural form.

For example : trousers, arms, drawers, assets, scales, alms, thanks, cards; ashes, riches, premises, scissors, credentials, proceeds.

3. Which sentence is correct?
  • a) The cattle was grazing in the field.
  • b) The cattle were grazing in the field.

Sentence b) is correct . The reason being that some nouns are always used as plurals though they look like singular. Other nouns like this are public; people, folk, mankind, poultry, sheep, and police. Gentry, peasantry, bulk, majority.

For example:

  • a) The majority are with the leader.
  • b) Police, though late, have come.
  • c) Public wants results.
4. Which sentence is correct?
  • a) This project will lead to lots of expenditures
  • b) This project will lead to lots of expenditure.

Sentence b) is correct. The reason is that some nouns are always used as singularPreceding adjectives or the verb form indicates the singularity or plurality. Other nouns are expenditure, furniture, information, machinery, issue, offspring, alphabet, scenery, poetry.

For example :

  • a) All the furniture was bought last year.
  • b) All the Information was given to him.

Meaning of some nouns in plural form is very different from the meaning of nouns in singular form. Hence, that form should be used which will convey the right meaning.

For example:

  • a) I opened the letter and read its contents.
  • b) Her mouth was fixed in a smile of pure content.
  • c) The conflict between good and evil is ages old.
  • d) We must produce goods at competitive prices.
  • e) Delhites breathe the most polluted air in the world.
  • f) She was just putting on airs when she came to visit us/me.
  • g) We should renounce the use of force to settle our dispute.
  • h) Families of people who died as a result of services in the forces should not be ignored.
  • i) I was very excited on my return to my home village.
  • j) Early returns in the ballot indicate majority for opposition.

Other nouns having different meanings in the singular and plural form are:

Singular with meaningPlural with meaning
Advice – counselAdvises – information
Respect – regardRespects – compliments
Compass – extentCompasses – instrument or range
Custom – habitCustoms – duties levied on
Ground – EarthGrounds – reasons
Iron – metalIrons – fetters made of iron
Mean – averageMeans – way or method
Respect – regardRespects – polite greetings
Colour – hueColours – appearance
Physic – medicinePhysics – natural science

Please go through the following singulars and plurals as plural forms are commonly known but their singular forms are not commonly known.

Singular FormPlural form

Some noun words have two plurals with different meanings. So that plural form should be selected which will convey the right meaning.

For example:

  • a) I have one brother and one sister (meaning- sons of the same parents).
  • b) Why should only select brethren be allowed to attend the meeting? (meaning – members of same society, organisation)
  • c) I took off my shoes and clothes (meaning- things that people wear).
  • d) Cotton, Nylon, Silk are different kinds of cloths (meaning- kinds or pieces of cloth).

Other nouns having two plurals with different meanings are.

Singular Plural with different meaning

  • Die Dies – stamps Dice – small cubes used in games
  • Genius Geniuses-persons of great talent Genie – spirit
  • Quarter Quarter – fourth part Quarter(s) – lodging
  • Manner Manner – Method Manners – Correct behaviour
  • Pain Pain – Suffering Pains – Careful efforts
  • Spectacle Spectacle – sight Spectacles – eye-glasses
  • Penny Pence-indicate amount of money Pennies number of coins

Following are rules regarding gender of the noun:

Collective nouns, even when they denote living beings, are considered to be of the neuter gender.

For example :

  • a) Shahrukh Khan had a herd of cows. He kept a herdsman to look after her.
  • b) Shahrukh Khan had a herd of cows. He kept a herdsman to look after it.

Sentence b) is correct. Though herd consists of cows (females), herd is not a feminine noun as it a collective noun.

Young children and the lower animals are also referred to as of the neuter gender.

For example:

  • a) The baby loves his toys. (Incorrect)
  • b) The baby loves its toys. (correct)
  • c) The mouse lost his tail when the cat pounced on him. (Incorrect)

We are often uncertain regarding the gender of the animals. The mouse here may be a male or a female. So, English language prefers the easy way out: treat it as of the neuter gender.

When objects without life are personified they are considered of:

  1. The masculine gender if the object is remarkable for strength and violence. Ex. Sun, Summer, Winter, Time, Death etc.
  2. The feminine gender if the object is remarkable for beauty, gentleness and gracefulness. Ex: Earth, Moon, Spring, Nature, Mercy etc.

For example:

  • a) The Sun came from behind the clouds and with her brilliance tore the veil of darkness. (Incorrect)
  • b) The Sun came from behind the clouds and with his brilliance tore the veil of darkness. (Correct)

Convention does not see brilliance as a womanly quality, but a manly one.

  • a) Nature offers his lap to him that seeks it. (Incorrect)
  • b) Nature offers her lap to him that seeks it. (Correct)

The offering of a lap is usually the mother’s role. Hence, Nature here should be treated as a feminine noun. Tell which sentence is correct.

  • a) The earth goes round the sun in 365Vs days. Can you calculate her speed?
  • b) The earth goes round the sun in 365Vs days. Can you calculate its speed?

Sentence b is correct. The error being made here is that personification is being brought where it does not exist. In the above statement the earth is being treated as a body (a thing), not a person. The scientist here is not concerned with the womanly qualities of the planet. So, neuter gender should be applied.

Rules regarding apostrophe S (’s)

1. Singular noun: ’s is added after the word.
2. Singular noun: Only an apostrophe is added when there are too many hissing sounds.

For example: Moses’ laws, for goodness’ sake, For justice’ sake.

3. Plural nouns ending in s like boys, cows: only’ is added after the word
4. Plural nouns not ending in s like men, children: ’s is added after the word.
5. ’S is added primarily after the living things and personified objects.

For example: Governor’s bodyguard, horse’s head, Nature’s law, Fortune’s favourite.

6. ’S is not used with inanimate or non-living things.

For example: leg of the table, cover of the book.

7. But nouns that denote time, distance or weight, ’s is used.

For example: a stone’s throw, in a year’s time, the earth’s surface.

8. Some other common phrases where ’s is used are to his heart’s content, at his wit’s end, for goodness’ sake, out of harm’s way.
9. When a noun consists of several words, the possessive sign is attached only to the last word.

For example:

  • a) The Queen’s of England reaction is important in the Diana episode. (Incorrect)
  • b) The Queen of England’s reaction is important in the Diana episode. (Correct)

Do not be mistaken that since it is the Queen’s reaction, the ’s should come after queen. You might think that putting it after England would make the reaction England’s and not the Queen’s. This is shortsightedness. Do not see Queen and England in isolation, Queen of England is one whole unit and the apostrophe should come at its end.

10. When two nouns are in apposition, the possessive sign is put to the latter only.

For example:

  • a) I am going to Stephen Hawking’s the scientist’s country. (Incorrect)
  • b) I am going to Stephen Hawking the scientist’s country. (Correct)
11. When two or more nouns show joint possession, the possessive sign is put to the latter only.

For example:

  • a) Amitabh and Ajitabh are Bachchanji’s sons. So Bachclaanji is Amitahh’s and Ajitabh’s father. (Incoreect)
  • b) Amitabh and Ajitabh are Bachchanji’s sons. So Bachchanji is Amitabh and Ajitabh’s father. (Correct)
12. When two or more nouns show separate possession, the possessive sign is put with both.

For example.

  • a) The audience listened to Javed and Vajpayee’s poems. (Incorrect)
  • b) The audience listened to Javed’s and Vajpayee’s poems. (Correct)