Language Arts Canadian Lead Primary School

Nouns: The Royal Family


Nouns name people, places, things, feelings or ideas.


Latin nomen ‘name’. This is why when you nominate someone, you say their name.

Important information about nouns

Nouns, being linguistic royals, can have quite an entourage. In some cases they have advance troops sent ahead to signal their arrival and to announce certain limited things about them. The words in this set are called determiners.

Though somewhat descriptive, determiners are distinct from adjectives like big or green in that they limit their noun by telling us whether it is:

  • singular or plural (this/these)
  • definite or indefinite (the/a)
  • belonging to someone or something (my, your, their).

Determiners fall into certain categories, including:

  • articles (the, a, an)
  • demonstratives (this, that, these)
  • quantifiers (one, more, many)
  • possessives (my, your, their)

There is much scope for argument regarding determiners. Some would call them pronouns, some would call them adjectives. Some say they are not a word-class at all but are structural rather than functional words.

Which arguments are acceptable to you is a personal decision.

What we can agree on about determiners is that they usually come before adjectives in grammatical sentences:

The silly dog ate a blanket.

*Silly the dog ate a blanket.

Also, certain nouns don’t need determiners at all. These are:

  • Nouns referring to generic things:

            Biologists enjoy life.

  • Nouns referring to a single group of things:

              Dave teaches children, which has a different sense from Dave teaches the children.

  • Proper nouns:

            Tony shucked the oysters, not *the Tony shucked the oysters. Putting articles before proper nouns denotes a special kind of egotism:

              The Todd is happy.

An introduction to nouns (2 minutes)

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