Grammar: People, Places, and Things

Table of Contents | Introduction | About the Author

A noun is a term used to indicate the objects one can see or the ideas one can understand.

A proper noun is one which describes a specifically named object from a larger more general category. It is capitalized to indicate this distinction. A common noun is a general category which is not capitalized. America/country

Nouns may be singular meaning one object or plural meaning more than one object. An "s" or "es" are usually added to indicate plurality; however, some nouns have a separate form to indicate plurality such as child/children.

The endings attached to nouns may show ownership. The possessive is indicated with an apostrophe and an "s" for singular and "s" followed by an apostrophe for plural nouns. (boy's/boys') Those plural forms which are an entirely separate form from the singular require only the addition of an apostrophe and an "s." (child's/children's) Nouns used to show possession actually act more like modifiers than nouns. The possessive form is an archaic reminder of the earlier form of the English language when endings were more significant.

Nouns may be used as the subject of a sentence. The subject is the primary focus of the sentence and is required in order to have a complete thought. The subject may either perform the action of the verb or be the recipient of action.

Nouns may be used as direct objects. The direct object is the recipient of the verb's action and usually falls in the pattern "S-AV-O." I bought candy.

Nouns may be used as indirect objects. In a sentence with an indirect object, the direct object becomes less a recipient and more a vehicle for providing action to or for the indirect object who receives the actual action. The pattern usually occurs as "S-AV-IO-O." I gave him candy.

Nouns may be used as predicate nominatives. In sentences with non-action verbs usually called linking or state of being verbs, a noun which falls after the verb is not the recipient of action, but is instead linked synonymously to the subject. The pattern usually occurs as "S-LV-PN." I am a person.

Nouns may be used as objects of prepositions. A preposition can be used to connect tangentially a noun to any part of the sentence. When this occurs, the noun becomes the object of the preposition.

In some instances, nouns may be replaced by an entire clause with a subject and verb but not written as a complete thought. These noun clauses perform just as nouns. For example, What I wanted was to quit is an example of a noun clause used as a subject. This construction is rather complex and not one generally used by less sophisticated writers.


A pronoun is a "generic" word used as a substitute for a noun. It may be used to add variety and simplify the writing process.

Pronouns require the use of the correct form based upon the antecedent or previous reference for which the pronoun has been substituted. This might require a consideration of case, which is the nominative/subject, objective/object, or possessive; and number, which is singular or plural; and gender, which is masculine, feminine or neuter.

Demonstrative pronouns are used to designate location and act more like modifiers than nouns. "This" and "these" indicate a physical nearness while "that" and "those" indicate distance.

Indefinite pronouns are designed to cover a broad undefined group. This is the only group of pronouns which use the apostrophe and "s" when showing possession.

Most are treated as if the group is singular. These include anybody, anyone, anything, each, everybody, everyone, everything, neither, nobody, no one, somebody, and someone.

Some are treated as if the group is plural such as both, many, few, several. Some are treated as if the group is singular or plural depending upon previous references such as all, any, some, none.

Interrogative pronouns are used to indicate a question. They consist of "who," "whose," "whom," "which," and "what." The pronouns "who" and "whom," although interrogative, are also personal in nature and must be treated according to their use in the sentence. "Who" is used as a subject, and "whom" is used as an object. "Whose," "which" and "what" used before a noun act as modifiers.

Personal pronouns are the form of pronoun which most commonly replace a noun. However, unlike nouns, personal pronouns require distinct forms to designate their use in a sentence.

  • Personal pronouns used as subjects include I, you, she, he, it, we, they.
  • Personal pronouns used as objects include me, you, her, him, it, us, them.
  • Personal pronouns showing possession as a modifier are my, your, her, his, its, our, their.
  • Personal pronouns showing possession replacing a noun are mine, yours, his, ours, theirs.
  • Some personal pronouns allow the addition of "self" or "selves" to the end of the pronoun creating a compound pronoun. They may be used to give emphasis, becoming intensive pronouns, or to refer back to a noun, becoming reflexive. They include myself, ourselves, yourself, yourselves, himself, herself, itself, oneself, and themselves.

Relative pronouns, "who," "whom," "whose," "that," and "which," are used as connectors rather than true pronouns.

Susan Lake and Associates small logo