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What is a Noun?

Nouns were probably the first part of speech that developed in human language. Nouns are naming words used to identify things, places, or people. Canonical examples include words like “bus,” “cat” and “England.”

Types Of Nouns

Linguists subdivide nouns into various subcategories. The most common divider is between proper nouns and common nouns.

Common Nouns

Common nouns refer to general places, concepts, people or things. For instance, “town,” “love,” “men” and “shoe” are all examples of common nouns. They do not refer to any specific instance of the category they describe and, therefore, are not capitalized.

Sometimes, you may see further subdivision of common nouns into the following categories: concrete, abstract, and collective.

Concrete Common Nouns

Concrete nouns are things that you can sense. They are parts of the physical environment.

Examples of sentences with concrete nouns are given below, with the noun in bold:

  • My eyes are tired

  • The boys are making noise outside

  • I went to the bathroom twenty minutes ago

Abstract Common Nouns

By contrast, abstract common nouns cannot be detected by the senses.

Here are some sentence examples of abstract nouns, highlighted in bold:

  • The captain’s bravery was unsurpassed

  • I feel so much love for you right now

  • I am a proponent of antidisestablishmentarianism

Collective Common Nouns

Collective common nouns are nouns that describe a collection of people or things. They are similar to concrete nouns.

Examples of sentences containing collective nouns include:

  • I saw a flock of sheep flying in my dream last night

  • The bee colony was more active in the summer

  • A shoal of fish moved in unison under the azure waves

In many cases, collective nouns are remnants of archaic English where specific words were used to indicate a group, usually of animals.

Proper Nouns

Proper nouns refer to specific places, concepts, people, or things. For instance, “Boston,” “Hinduism,” “Jason,” and “Nike.”

Sometimes, proper nouns are called “proper names.” They are always capitalized in English, even if they do not fall at the start of a sentence.

Here are some examples of proper nouns, by subcategory:

  • Human names: John, Susan, Margaret, Mary, Gurmit, Francois

  • Nations, tribes, and religious orders: Mongolia, Eritrea, Haiti, Armenian, Zulu, Norwegian, Jainism, Islam, Daoism

  • Places and districts: Florida, Santa Fe, Brussels, The Bronx, Chinatown, Greenwich Village

  • Language and dialect nouns: Turkish, Cantonese, Urdu, Bisaya, Welsh

Nouns As Subjects And Objects

English sentences have both subjects and objects, and these are always nouns. A subject is the person, place or thing that is acting out the verb in the sentence, while the object is the person, place or thing the verb is happening to.

In the following sentences, the subject is highlighted in bold:

  • The cat sat on the mat

  • Every year, people go to the carnival

  • The weather kept changing

In the first sentence, “cat” is the subject because it is the subject that is doing the verb – sitting on the mat. In the second sentence, “people” is the subject, because they are going to the carnival.

Nouns can be both direct and indirect objects in sentences. A direct object is a noun that has something done to it by the subject while an indirect object is a recipient of a direct object.

  • Take the food to him

In this sentence, “food” is the direct object because it is what is being given. “Him” is the indirect object because it represents the recipient of the direct object.

Appositive Nouns

Appositive nouns are nouns that immediately follow from other nouns to define or identify them.

  • My sister, Janice, is thirty years old

In this sentence, “sister” is the common noun, and “Janice” is the appositive noun, since the inclusion of the latter adds information to the former

Nouns As Modifiers

In some instances, nouns can act as adjectives, modifying the noun to provide extra description or information:

  • He is a adrenaline junkie

  • She is a sports car driver

  • We have an incredible love story

In most sentences, “adrenaline,” “sports” and “love” are nouns. However, in the preceding examples, they serve as modifiers for “junkie,” “car” and “story.”

Plural Nouns

In English, you can make most nouns plural by adding “s” or “es” to the end of the word. For instance, “dog” becomes “dogs” or “wage” becomes “wages.”

There are, however, some exceptions. “Criterion” becomes “criteria” and “child” becomes “children.” In British English, “penny” becomes “pence” instead of “pennies.”

Nouns Versus Pronouns

While nouns identify a person, place or thing, pronouns refer to nouns, or fill the position of nouns in a sentence.

For example:

  • Jennifer at the cake

  • She ate the cake

In this example, Jennifer is the proper noun, while “she,” in the second sentence, is the pronoun.

Other examples of pronouns in sentences include:

  • That bicycle is mine

  • He was always such a bully at school

  • Every time they go to the beach, they make a sandcastle

Combine Words

Dog + Cat = docat
Legend + Honor = leonor
Foot + Locker = fooocker

Combine Names

Brad + Angelina = Brangelina
Robert + Katelyn = Robyn
Gregory + Janet = Granet

Try our Word Combiner to combine any words or names.

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