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Classification of nouns.

Nouns fall under two classes: (A) proper nouns; (B) common nouns.


A. Proper nouns are individual names given to separate persons or things. As regards their meaning proper nouns may be personal names (Mary, Peter, Shakespeare), geographical names (Moscow, London, the Caucasus), the names of the months and of the days of the week (February, Monday), names of ships, hotels, clubs etc.

A large number of nouns now proper were originally common nouns (Brown, Smith, Mason).

Proper nouns may change their meaning and become common nouns:


George went over to the table and took a sandwich and a glass of champagne.

Â. Common nouns are names that can be applied to any individual of a class of persons or things (e. g. man, dog, book), collections of similar individuals or things regarded as a single unit (e. g. peasantry, family), materials (e. g. snow, iron, cotton) or abstract notions (e. g. kindness, development).

Thus there are different groups of common nouns: class nouns, collective nouns, nouns of material and abstract nouns.

Nouns may also be classified from another point of view: nouns denoting things (the word thing is used in a broad sense) that can be counted are called countable nouns; nouns denoting things that cannot be counted are called uncountable nouns.


1. Class nouns denote persons or things belonging to a class. They are countables and have two numbers: sinuglar and plural. They are generally used with an article.1


1 On the use of articles with class nouns see Chapter II, § 2, 3.


“Well, sir,” said Mrs. Parker, “I wasn’t in the shop above a great deal.”

He goes to the part of the town where the shops are.


2. Collective nouns denote a number or collection of similar individuals or things regarded as a single unit.

Collective nouns fall under the following groups:


(a) nouns used only in the singular and denoting a number of things collected together and regarded as a single object: foliage, machinery.


It was not restful, that green foliage.

Machinery new to the industry in Australia was introduced for preparing land.


(b) nouns which are singular in form though plural in meaning: police, poultry, cattle, people, gentry. They are usually called nouns of multitude. When the subject of the sentence is a noun of multitude the verb used as predicate is in the plural:


I had no idea the police were so devilishly prudent.

Unless cattle are in good condition in calving, milk production will never reach a high level

The weather was warm and the people were sitting at their doors.


(c) nouns that may be both singular and plural: family, crowd, fleet, nation. We can think of a number of crowds, fleets or different nations as well as of a single crowd, fleet, etc.


A small crowd is lined up to see the guests arrive.

Accordingly they were soon afoot, and walking in the direction of the scene of action, towards which crowds of people were already pouring from a variety of quarters.


3. Nouns of material denote material: iron, gold, paper, tea, water. They are uncountables and are generally used without any article.1


1 On the use of articles with nouns of material see Chapter II, § 5, 6, 7.


There was a scent of honey from the lime-trees in flower.

There was coffee still in the urn.


Nouns of material are used in the plural to denote different sorts of a given material.


...that his senior counted upon him in this enterprise, and had consigned a quantity of select wines to him…


Nouns of material may turn into class nouns (thus becoming countables) when they come to express an individual object of definite shape.


C o m p a r e:

To the left were clean panes of glass.

“He came in here,” said the waiter looking at the light through the tumbler, “ordered a glass of this ale.”

But the person in the glass made a face at her, and Miss Moss went out.


4. Abstract nouns denote some quality, state, action or idea: kindness, sadness, fight. They are usually uncountables, though some of them may be countables (e. g. idea, hour).2


2 On the use of articles with abstract nouns see Chapter II, § 8, 9, 10, 11.


Therefore when the youngsters saw that mother looked neither frightened nor

offended, they gathered new courage.

Accustomed to John Reed’s abuse — I never had an idea of replying to it.

It’s these people with fixed ideas.


Abstract nouns may change their meaning and become class nouns. This change is marked by the use of the article and of the plural number:


beauty a beauty beauties
sight a sight sights


He was responsive to beauty and here was cause to respond.

She was a beauty.

...but she isn’t one of those horrid regular beauties.


Date: 2015-01-02; view: 1618

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