The Seven Classifications of Nouns

The seven noun classifications – common, proper, collective, abstract, concrete, countable, and mass nouns – defines and differentiates between the different types of nouns used in everyday English reading, writing and speech.

Bt Joan Whetzel

Ask most students to tell you what a noun is and chances are good they’ll deliver the tried and trune answer.” A noun is a person, place, or thing.” This is true, however nouns have 7 types or classifications used in everyday English. The nouns are differentiated by category and usage into the following classifications: common nouns, proper nouns, collective nouns, abstract nouns, concrete nouns, count nouns and mass nouns.



1. Common Nouns

Common nouns, generally, refer to the category typical defined as person, place or thing in the general, or generic sense. Common nouns include: boy, man, forest, house, bridge, water, rock, metal. They don’t get into more precise terms like naming a specific person (Doc Baker), place (Buckingham Palace), or thing (the Tacoma Narrows Bridge). The lack of specific identifiers implies that common nouns could be applied to any number of nouns just like it. The common noun “rock” refers to a all types of rocks. The noun “water” refers to any kind of water whether it’s found in a lake, pond, river ocean, swimming pool, bathtub, or the kitchen faucet.


2. Proper Nouns

Proper nouns, usually capitalized refer to specific people, places and things by name. Doc Baker, Michael, Queen Elizabeth, Harvard, Buckingham Palace, Paris, Tacoma Narrows Bridge, Kleenex, Xerox and Rolex are proper nouns or the names of people, places and things (in this case brand names). Proper nouns are very specific. The terms proper noun and proper name are used somewhat interchangeably.


3. Collective Nouns

Collective nouns denote groups or collections. Common nouns are sometimes used in a phrase such as a flock of geese,  crowd of people, a pack of wolves, a bundle of firewood.  Some collective nouns are singular words, like choir, cliques, or herds indicating a group.


4. Abstract Nouns

Abstract nouns signify something more intangible like freedom, redemption, or power. While these nouns can be defined, they are not a solid thing that can be touched or held onto. They are elusive or ethereal concepts and ideas.


5. Concrete Nouns

Concrete nouns apply to anything that can be felt (velvet), seen (crimson roses), heard (shrieking toddlers), smelled (brewing coffee) or tasted (dark, rich chocolate cake). Concrete nouns are definitely tangible and specific items that we perceive through our senses.


6. Count Nouns

Count nouns suggest things that are counted in numbers: a dozen eggs, “7 Brides for 7 Brothers”, 3 Blind Mice. If a countable noun comes in more than one it’s added to the sub-classification of plural nouns and usually has an “s” or “es” added to the end of the noun to show its plural status.

7. Mass Nouns

Mass nouns also illustrate nouns with more than one unit, but the units are not usually counted. Milk or water, for instance, could mean any volume of milk from an ounce to a gallon. Sunlight represent rays of sunlight, the number of rays of sunlight don’t really matter. Other mass nouns include: clutter, flour, sand, wood, lumber. These words indicate that there is more than one piece or unit, it’s a large grouping, but nobody usually stops to count or measure the mass.



Nouns have a few other sub-classifications like compound nouns (two or more words joined together – pushpin), gender specific nouns (steward/stewardess, actor/actress, waiter/waitress) and gender neutral nouns (firefighter, mail carrier), irregular verbs (the plural is different than the singular – foot/feet, child/children, baby/babies), and possessive nouns (add apostrophe “s” to show ownership, or “s” apostrophe to show ownership by a plural group of people or things).


In general, though, the above 7 classifications of nouns show how nouns can take on general or specific nuances, be tangible or intangible or show volume and quantity on more than one way. The best writing makes use of the correct category of nouns.

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One Response to “The Seven Classifications of Nouns”
  1. M McLeon Says...

    On September 6, 2011 at 8:46 pm


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