Starting today, Mots Justes will return to its regular publishing schedule. Check back each Monday for posts on grammar, Tuesday for punctuation, Wednesday for writing exercises, and alternating weeks for Usage Thursdays and Friday Book Reviews. MJ looks forward to getting back into routine and hope you do, too.
So, without further ado, let’s talk about perhaps the most basic part of speech, the noun.
A noun names a person, place, or thing:
My brother went to the mall to buy a television.
Nouns can name things that are either tangible or intangible:
The letters my mother wrote to my father during the war demonstrated her love and loyalty during their separation.
Common Vs. Proper Nouns
A common noun names general people, places, or things and are not capitalized unless they appear at the start of a sentence or in a title:
My sister drove to the store to pick up some ice cream.
A proper noun names a specific person, place, or thing, and is always capitalized:
Erica drove to Whole Foods to pick up some Breyers.
Here are some categories of nouns that are proper and so should be capitalized:
- religions, including the names of the deity, followers, and sacred books
- family relationships when they are used as names:
Mom reminded us to pick up a birthday card for our father.
- particular places
- nationalities and languages, as well as races and tribes
- educational institutions, departments, degrees, and specific courses (Algebra I), but not general school subjects unless they are the names of languages (math vs. English)
- government departments, organizations, and political parties
- historical movements, periods, events, and documents
- months, days of the week, and holidays, but not seasons
Count Vs. Noncount Nouns
Count nouns are simply names of people, places, or things that can be, well, counted:
The librarian put the books back on the shelf.
Mots Justes has already covered noncount nouns, or collective nouns, at length here.
Mots Justes will continue to discuss nouns throughout the month of March. Next week, we’ll cover plural nouns.
Chicago Manual of Style, The. 15th ed. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2003.
Fogarty, Mignon, Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. New York: Holt Paperbacks, 2008.
Hacker, Diana, The Bedford Handbook for Writers, 3rd ed. Boston: St. Martin’s Press: 1991.