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What is a Noun?

Of all the parts of speech, nouns are perhaps the most important. A noun is a word that identifies a person, animal, place, thing, or idea. Here, we’ll take a closer look at what makes a noun a noun, and we’ll provide some noun examples, along with some advice for using nouns in your sentences.

Identifying a Noun

A noun is a part of speech that denotes a person, animal, place, thing, or idea. The English word noun has its roots in the Latin word nomen, which means “name.” Every language has words that are nouns. As you read the following explanations, think about some words that might fit into each category.

  • Person – A term for a person, whether proper name, gender, title, or class, is a noun.
  • Animal – A term for an animal, whether proper name, species, gender, or class is a noun.
  • Place – A term for a place, whether proper name, physical location, or general locale is a noun.
  • Thing – A term for a thing, whether it exists now, will exist, or existed in the past is a noun.
  • Idea – A term for an idea, be it a real, workable idea or a fantasy that might never come to fruition is a noun.

Noun Examples

When we first start to learn the parts of speech, trying to identify different words can seem like a challenge. This process gets easier with practice. Here are some noun examples to help you get started. The nouns in each sentence have been italicized.

  • Person – He is the person to see.
  • Person – John started to run.
  • Person – Plato was an influential Greek philosopher.
  • Person – Sharon admires her grandfather.
  • Person – My mother looks a lot like my grandmother, and I look very much like them.


  • Animal – The dog barked at the cat.
  • Animal – Elephants never forget.
  • Animal – Sophie is my favorite horse.


  • Place – The restaurant is open.
  • Place – Let’s go to the beach.
  • Place – Look over there.
  • Place – Come here.
  • Place – Harvard and Yale are two famous universities.
  • Place – Look! There’s the Eiffel Tower.


  • Thing – Throw the ball.
  • Thing – Please close the door and lock it.
  • Thing – Use words properly to be understood.
  • Thing – The lamp sits on a table next to the sofa.
  • Thing – Money doesn’t grow on trees.


  • Idea – Follow the rules.
  • Idea – The theory of relativity is an important concept.
  • Idea – Love is a wonderful emotion.

How Nouns Function

Nouns have several important functions. While it’s impossible to list them all here, we’ll go over the most important jobs nouns are tasked with.

  • Nouns are subjects. Every sentence has a subject, which is a noun that tells us what that sentence is all about. John swung the baseball bat.
  • Nouns are direct objects. These nouns receive action from verbs. John swung the baseball bat.
  • Nouns are indirect objects. These nouns receive the direct object. Brad threw John the ball.
  • Nouns are objects of prepositions. These nouns follow the prepositions in prepositional phrases. John swung the baseball bat at Greg.
  • Nouns are predicate nominatives. These nouns follow linking verbs and rename the subject. John is a baseball player.
  • Nouns are object complements. These nouns complete the direct object. They named their dog Max.

This is just the beginning. Be sure to dig deeper and explore more for additional information about nouns and even more noun examples.

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