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Nouns in English

This section deals with Noun Gender, Countable and Uncountable nouns, the Plural (regular and irregular, Compound Nouns, Proper Nouns and Nationalities.

NOUN GENDER

    Generally, English nouns indicate masculine and feminine gender only for persons. All things are considered as neuter.
  • Some nouns can be used for either a masculine or a feminine subject, such as cousin, teenager, teacher, doctor, cook, student, parent, friend, relation, colleague, partner, leader.
  • In some cases special object nouns are given gender, as for pets, countries and ships (which are feminine).
      Examples:
    • My father is English. He is English
    • My watch is Swiss. It is Swiss.
    • Elizabeth is my uncle. She is Irish.
    • Mary is a doctor. She is a doctor.
    • Peter is a doctor. He is a doctor.
    • France is popular with her neighbours at the moment.
    • I travelled from England to New York on the Queen Elizabeth, she is a great ship.
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THE PLURAL OF NOUNS

Most nouns form the plural by adding s or es.-ES is used:
  • for nouns ending in -s, -ss, -sh, -ch, -x, -z.
  • for nouns ending in -y preceded by a consonant, that make the plural with -ies.

Nouns ending in "-o"

Some nouns ending in -o make the plural in -oes. Other n ouns admit both plurals.
    Examples:
  • potato --> potatoes
  • tomato --> tomatoes
  • hero --> heroes
  • echo --> echoes
  • kilo --> kilos
  • solo --> solos
  • logo --> logos
  • piano --> pianos
  • photo --> photos
  • soprano --> sopranos
  • buffalo --> buffalos, buffaloes
  • mosquito --> mosquitos, mosquitoes
  • volcano --> volcanos, volcanoes
  • tornado --> tornados, tornadoes

Nouns ending in "-f", "-fe"

Some nouns ending in -f or -fe make the plural in -ves; others accept both plurals. Nouns in "-ff" just add an -s (as cliff --> cliffs).
    Examples:
  • knife--> knives
  • leaf--> leaves
  • half--> halves
  • wife--> wives
  • life--> lives
  • loaf--> loaves
  • shelf --> shelves
  • thief --> thieves
  • self --> selves
  • hoof--> hoofs, hooves
  • scarf --> scarfs, scarves
  • dwarf --> dwarfs, dwarves
  • wharf --> wharfs, wharves
  • handkerchief --> handkerchiefs, handkerchieves

Nouns of foreign origin

Nouns of foreign origin, especially Latin and Greek, make the plural as in the language of origin. There is a tendency to use the neutral plural -a as singular (data, criteria).
    Examples:
  • cactus--> cacti ['kaktai], or cactuses
  • focus--> foci ['fousai] or focuses
  • fungus--> fungi ['fangiai], or funguses
  • nucleus--> nuclei['nukliai], nucleuses
  • syllabus--> syllabuses, syllabi
  • analysis--> analyses
  • diagnosis--> diagnoses
  • oasis--> oases
  • thesis--> theses
  • crisis--> crises
  • phenomenon--> phenomena
  • criterion--> criteria; less common, criterions

IRREGULAR PLURALS

There are some irregular formations for noun plurals. Some of the most common ones are listed below.
  • uomo= man --> men
  • donna= woman --> women
  • bambino= child --> children
  • persona= person --> people
  • dente= tooth --> teeth
  • piede= foot --> feet
  • topo= mouse --> mice
  • pidocchio= louse --> lice
  • bue= ox --> oxen
  • oca= goose --> geese

INVARIABLE NOUNS

Some nouns have the same form in the singular and the plural.
  • pecora/e= sheep --> sheep
  • pesce/i= fish --> fish
  • specie= species --> species
  • cervo/i= deer --> deer

PLURAL FORM, SINGULAR MEANING

Some nouns have a plural form but take a singular verb, such as news, athletics, liguistics, darts, billiards, etc. Also plural nations usually take a singular verb.
    Examples:
  • The news is on at 6.30 p.m.
  • Athletics is good for young people.
  • Linguistics is the study of language.
  • Darts is a popular game in England.
  • The United States is a great country.

ONLY PLURAL FORM

Some nouns have only a plural form and take a plural verb. Some examples are trousers, jeans, glasses, savings, thanks, stairs, customs, congratulations, wages, spectacles, goods.
    Examples:
  • My trousers are too tight.
  • Those glasses are his.

COUNTABLE AND UNCOUNTABLE NOUNS

  • Countable nouns are things we can count, such as one dog, a horse, sixteen men, the shop. They usually have a singular and plural form.
  • Uncountable nouns are things that we do not usually count, such as tea, sugar, water, air, rice; or abstract ideas or qualities such as knowledge, beauty, anger, fear, love, money, advice, information, furniture, happiness, sadness, news, research, evidence, safety. They do not usually have a plural form.
  • There's some difficulty when a noun is countable in Italian and uncountable in English, in which case the English word has a plural meaning but singular form - the most common are: advice (=consigli), baggage/luggage (=bagagli), furniture (=mobili), information(=informazioni), news (=notizie), data (=dati). To translate the Italian singulare, special partitive expressions are used as "(a) bit of", "(an) item of", "(a) piece of".
  • Some nouns have both countable and uncountable forms, usually with a different meaning.
      Examples:
    • some chocolate= della cioccolata --- four chocolates= quattro cioccolatini
    • some black pepper= del pepe nero --- two red peppers= 2 peperoni rossi
    • some paper= della carta --- the evening papers= i giornali della sera
    • broken glass = vetri rotti --- two glasses= 2 bicchieri

COMPOUND NOUNS

Compound nouns are formed from two or more other words, which are not necessarily nouns. The meaning of the compound word is different from the meaning of the words on their own.
    Examples:
  • head + ache --> headache (noun + verb) = mal di testa
  • girl + friend --> girlfriend (noun + noun) = fidanzata
  • work + man --> workman (verb + noun) = operaio
  • hair + cut --> haircut (noun + verb) = taglio di capelli
  • hold + up --> holdup (verb + prep) = rapina

PROPER NOUNS

Proper nouns are used with a capital letter. Apart from names of people and geographical entities, a capital letter is also used with:
  • Titles of works, books, e.g. The Barber of Seville, War and Peace
  • The names of months, days and holiday names, e.g. Monday, October, Easter
  • Adjectives derived from proper nouns, e.g. Italian, Arabic
  • Titles of people, e.g. the President of the United States, Doctor Johnson

NATIONALITIES

Nationalities sometimes have a different form for the adjective and the noun. The table below lists only those with difference. All the rest are formed as for America --> American.
  • country --> adjective --> noun
  • Britain --> British --> Briton
  • Denmark --> Danish --> Dane
  • England --> English --> Englishman
  • Finland --> Finnish --> Finn
  • France --> French --> Frenchman
  • Holland --> Dutch --> Dutchman
  • Iceland --> Icelandic --> Icelander
  • Ireland --> Irish --> Irishman
  • Poland --> Polish --> Pole
  • Scotland --> Scottish --> Scot
  • Spain --> Spanish --> Spaniard
  • Sweden --> Swedish --> Swede
  • Turkey --> Turkish --> Turk
  • Wales --> Welsh --> Welshman