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English Parts of Speech: Nouns and Pronouns August 29, 2006

Posted by LearningNerd in English, Grammar, Language.
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Series index: English Parts of Speech Overview

 

Nouns

We’ve all heard this before: a noun is a person, place or thing. GrammarStation.com’s Know Your Nouns page gives grammatical information about (almost) any noun.

Case

Nouns have three cases: nominative (or subjective), objective, and possessive. For nouns, the nominative and objective cases look the same; grammarians just use them to distinguish a sentence’s subject from its object. (See Basic Sentence Elements.)

For everything you ever wanted to know about the possessive case, see The American Heritage Book of English Usage – Forming Possesives.

Gender and Number

Most nouns in English don’t have a gender, but some nouns do have male and female counterparts. LousyWriter.com’s article on Inflections of Nouns – Gender has some interesting information about the origins of masculine and feminine words.

Number is simple enough; English nouns are either singular or plural. See The American Heritage Book of English Usage – Guide to Forming Plurals.

Types of Nouns

  • Collective Nouns – a herd of cattle, a group of students, etc. See lists of collective nouns here.
  • Pluralia tantum – scissors, pants, and glasses (not to be confused with the noncount noun glass). These are often used with collective nouns: a pair of scissors, a pair of pants, etc.

Using Other Words As Nouns

  • Words and Word Groups Used As Nouns – With a little poetic license, you can use any word as a noun — even whole clauses can function as nouns within a sentence (That you could say such a thing bewilders me).

Pronouns

Pronouns are noun-substitutes used to avoid repetition.

Personal Pronouns

When you think of pronouns, you probably think of personal pronouns: I, you, me, him, etc. Unlike nouns, pronouns in the nominative case look different from those in the objective case. Person, gender, and number are straightforward — see English Personal Pronouns on Wikipedia for a table. Note: the table includes possessive determiners (my, yourher, etc.) even though they aren’t technically pronouns.

Other Types of Pronouns

  • Relative Pronouns – who, whom, whose, which, that, and sometimes what. These introduce relative clauses. The use of the words which and that often causes confusion (and many arguments); see the links at the bottom of “How to Avoid Common Pronoun Errors” below.
  • Reflexive Pronouns – myself, herself, itself, yourselves, etc. Note: when used for emphasis, these are called intensive pronouns.

How to Avoid Common Pronoun Errors

  • I/me/myself – a short word on these commonly misused pronouns.
  • The American Heritage Book of English Usage has informative entries on: thisthat, whowhich, and what.

Pronoun Quizzes

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