What’s In A Noun? Part 1

Egyptian catI would wager that most of you know a noun is a word used to name a person, place, thing, or abstract idea. But did you know there is a lot more to nouns than just that? In fact, there is so much going on with nouns that I’m going to have to write two posts about them.

Today, in What’s in a Noun — Part 1, we’re going to take a closer look at all the different types of nouns.

A proper noun refers to a specific person, place or thing and always starts with a capital letter regardless of its place in a sentence. For example:

  • The first woman in recorded history to declare herself pharaoh was Hatshepsut of Egypt.

A common noun refers to a generic person, place or thing. As such, it does not begin with a capital unless it is the first word in a sentence. For example:

  • In Ancient Egypt, a jackal was sometimes mistaken for a god.

A concrete noun refers to something or someone we can physically perceive through any of our five senses. So, for example:

  • The priest collapsed on the floor when the mummy got up and walked away.

An abstract noun refers to something we cannot physically perceive. Essentially, it is the opposite of a concrete noun. Here’s an example:

  • The bride’s joy was replaced by fear when the mummy crashed her wedding.

A count noun has both singular and plural forms and refers to something you can count. For example:

  • Finally, someone thought to inform the gods. One god, Seth, came to sort it out.

A mass noun does not have a plural form and refers to something that you cannot count, usually because it is abstract. Here is an example:

  • Ancient Egyptians had great love for their cats, which were seen as symbols of warmth and protection.

A collective noun refers to a group of people or things. The individual members could be counted, but the group is usually thought of as one unit. Collective nouns can be tricky because they can take a singular or plural verb, depending on whether you are emphasizing the group itself or the individual members. So, for example:

  • The priesthood is never going to agree to such a change.
  • The priesthood are all going to be there.


Image credit: Yuriy Nosenko Photoxpress.com

Holy Potatoes! It’s an Interjection!

Mad Scientist

Psst! Hey! Over here!

Now that I have your attention, let me introduce today’s grammar topic. We’re going to look at one of the three parts of speech most people can’t remember when asked to recite all eight off the top of their head — which are prepositions, conjunctions and interjections. Today we’re talking about interjections.

As you might have already guessed, an interjection is a word, phrase or clause added to a sentence to communicate emotion (interjections are in bold).

  • Ouch! Igor yelled when he touched the live wire.

Interjections don’t usually interact with the other parts of speech, preferring to stand alone — or interrupt, as their name suggests. This independence allows us to use more or less any part of speech as an interjection, as evidenced in the title of this post and the following examples:

  • Hideous! (adjective)
  • Fiend! (noun)
  • Help! (verb)

While interjections often appear as exclamations followed by an exclamation mark, it is not always the case. An interjection does not always require an exclamation mark and it can appear at the beginning of a sentence or as an aside mid-sentence, as in the following examples:

  • Oh no, Doctor, I think we put in the wrong brain!
  • Doctor Frankenstein, ahem, I think it’s alive.

An interjection is something that occurs naturally when we speak. They often reflect the colloquialisms of modern language.

  • OMG! I can’t believe it worked!

It’s common to use interjections in many forms of writing, especially dialogue and poetry, but you should exercise caution when dealing with more formal writing. For example, if you are writing an essay on how to genetically engineer a monster from “salvaged” body parts, you probably shouldn’t say:

  • When setting up your secret laboratory, for the love of God, do not disclose the location to anyone that is not on your research team.

It would be better to leave the interjection out when the writing style requires more formality.

Finally, while almost any word can serve as an interjection, there are some words that only ever serve as interjections, such as ouch, phew, ugh, and oops.

  • Oops, the monster has escaped!


Image credit: Andrey Kiselev / Photoxpress.com