Let’s Talk About-Nouns

Written communication in business is vital. With that in mind, we are going to review the eight parts of speech that need to be used properly to keep business English on a professional level.

It is logical to start with a review of the basics. Therefore, one of the eight parts of speech will be discussed in this post. Let’s talk about nouns.


We were all taught at one time that nouns are the names of persons, places, or things. That is a great place to start but they are much than just that. Nouns also name qualities, concepts, and activities. That last one may cause confusion as we were also taught that verbs were action words. Sounds a lot like an activity to me. But do not fear, it will become clear. As stated in Canadian Business English, “Sentences revolve around nouns since these words function both as subjects and as objects of verbs.”

Persons: Mary, president, Mrs Smith, teacher

Places: Alberta, college, park, Toronto

Things: table, iPhone, car, book

Qualities: honesty, warmth, reliability

Concepts: knowledge, friendship, freedom, happiness

Activities: eating, reading, learning, management

Hint: if you are questioning whether a word is a noun or not, use it with the verb is or are. Toronto is in Canada, friendship is important, Mary’s greatest quality is her warmth.

Now let’s get a bit deeper into nouns now.

There are different kinds of nouns, concrete, abstract, common, and proper nouns.  Seriously? Yes, I have barely scratched the surface.

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Concrete nouns name specific objects that one can actually see, hear, taste, feel, or smell. Examples: Thesaurus, coffee, doctor, ruler, computer, and mountain.

Abstract nouns name qualities and concepts that are hard to visualize. Examples: freedom, success, ethics, happiness, personality, and value. I like to remember abstract nouns as qualities and concepts that mean different things to different people.

Common nouns name generalized persons, places, and things. They are not capitalized because they are common. Examples: town, student, cell phone, and magazine.

Proper nouns name specific persons, places, and things. They are always capitalized. Examples: United Nations, Smarties, Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and Bill Smith.

Nouns can also be singular or plural. We understand the singular nouns and how to use them as they name one person, place, or thing. When it comes to using plural nouns there are more rules. The English language is full of rules.

The rules are as follows:

Regular nouns form the plural with the simple addition of s or es. Examples of add s: advantages, graphics, Toms, Smiths, houses, and pupils.

Nouns that require an es to become the plural end in s, x, z, ch, or sh. Examples are brushes, taxes, kisses, wrenches, and Lopezes.

Irregular nouns form the plural by changing the spelling of the word. For example, a child becomes children, goose becomes geese, man becomes men, and mouse becomes mice.

Hint: Apostrophes are not used to form plural nouns. The apostrophe is used to show possession.

Lets talk about-nouns

This next section is aimed at helping you with the proper spelling of challenging noun plurals. Remember these rules and you will be a successful speller.

Common nouns ending in y for the plural in two ways:

  1. When the letter y is preceded by a vowel (a, e, i, o, u) you will form the plural by adding s only. Examples: valley becomes valleys, journey becomes journeys, attorney becomes attorneys.
  2. When the letter before y is a consonant you will form the plural by changing the y to ies. Examples: country becomes countries, quality becomes qualities, a company becomes companies.

Hint: This rule does not apply to the plural forms of proper nouns such as Amy becomes Amys and Smithy become Smithys.

Common nouns that end in fe or f do not follow a standard rule in the making of plurals. You just need to remember how to spell them correctly. Most thankfully, are made the plural by adding s to the singular form. Unless you are using the following words:

half becomes halves, a knife becomes knives, leaf becomes leaves, shelf becomes shelves, wife become wives, and wolf becomes wolves.

There are a few words that can be turned plural by both ways and they are: dwarfs, dwarves

scarfs, scarves

wharfs, and wharves

Common nouns ending in o may be made a plural by adding s or es. Of course, there is more than one rule.

When the letter before o is a vowel you will form the plural by adding s only. For example, studio becomes studios, ratio becomes ratios, tattoo becomes tattoos, and duo becomes duos.

When the letter before the o is consonant you form the plural by adding s or es. Yes, there are words that you can use either option with.

Some examples of s are: auto becomes autos, a logo becomes logos, and typo becomes typos.

Some examples of es are: echo becomes echoes, hero becomes heroes, and potato becomes potatoes.

The words that become the plural by adding either an s or es are:

cargos, cargoes

ghettos, ghettoes

innuendos, innuendoes

mangos, mangoes

mosquitos, mosquitoes

mottos and mottoes

Musical terms that end in o form the plural by adding s only, such as alto, altos, cello, cellos, contralto, contraltos, piano, pianos, solo, solos, soprano, and sopranos.

Proper nouns and surnames are typically made a plural by adding s or es. The important rule to remember with proper nouns (such as business names) and surnames is that you cannot change the original spelling of the word. Some examples are:

Abrey becomes the Abreys, Germany becomes Germanys, January becomes Januarys, and Elizabeth becomes Elizabeths.

Proper nouns and surnames that end in s, x, z, ch, or sh are made plural by adding es. These would appear as: Rex becomes Rexes, March becomes Marches, Rodriguez becomes the Rodriguezes, and Paris becomes Parises.

This seems like a good spot to end for today. If this information is new to you I know, from experience, that you will need some time to digest it. The information above is not all there is to learn about nouns and I will return to this subject again soon.


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