Usage of Nouns – Part I – Verbal With Sujit

In this new series of our daily verbal dose, we endeavor to cover almost all the crucial aspects of the language initially emphasizing on the grammatically correct usage of different forms of parts of speech and spotting commonly made grammatical errors which usually go unnoticed. Both these aspects, will not only help build a strong foundation to crack the various management entrance exams but bolster our communication and writing skills at work.


The different parts of speech commonly listed by most of the grammar books are: Nouns,Pronouns,Verbs, Adjectives, Adverbs,Conjunctions, Prepositions and Interjections. Some would also list determiners and articles.

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1) Gender – Many common nouns, like professor or doctor can refer to both to men or women. Some of them might change according to the gender. However, this use of gender specific nouns is rare today. Hence an actor, a waiter, an author, an engineer ( most of the nouns referring to occupation/profession) can be used as both masculine and feminine.

eg: Correct: She is an author.

Correct: She is an authoress.

2)Possessive Nouns

Nouns become possessive by adding an apostrophe and the letter “s”. However, there are certain exceptions to this rule:

a) Singular nouns take apostrophe and an “s” to form the posssesive.

eg: The red tie is Raj’s.

b) Plural nouns take apostrophe and an “s” to form the posssesive.

eg: The men’s hockey match is tomorrow.

c)Singular nouns ending in “s” take an apostrophe (only) or an apostrophe  and “s” to form the posssesive.

eg: Professor Srinivas’ sense of humour is well-known. OR Professor Srinivas’s sense of humour is well-known.

d)Plural nouns ending in an “s” take an apostrophe (only) to form the posssesive.

eg: The buses’ roofs are low.

3) Countable Nouns

A countable noun names anything that can be counted and has a singular and a plural form. Singular countable nouns become plural in various ways.

eg: ski- skis, knife- knives, dwarf- dwarfs, thesis- theses, alumna(f)- alumnae, alumnus(m)- alumni.

eg. The media is responsibe OR The data is correct.

Explanation for the the two sentences given above: Media is the plural of the word “medium”. The agencies of mass communication are often referred individually, for eg. the print media, or at times collectively to refer to all the agencies as a mass noun, “The media is responsible for making the event a success” is a correct sentence. Similarly, though the data is plural of datum, the word data is widely used as a singular noun and this use is accepted as correct.

4) Non- countable nouns ( Mass nouns)

Non-countable nouns have the following characteristics: they cannot be determined,some of them do not have the plural form, they take singular verbs, they are similar to collective nouns.

a)Non-countable nouns are used with much, lesser,this,that,some,any,enough,amount of.

eg: Correct: She made fewer mistakes today.

Incorrect: She made less mistakes today.

b)There are some words which can either be used as a count noun or a non-count noun depending how they are being used.

eg: Experience( non-count noun) is the best teacher.

We had many exciting experiences( count noun) in college.

c) Here are some non-count nouns. We do not use plural form of most of these words in speech and writing.

Materials: wood,cloth,ice,plastic,wool,steel….this category can get a plural from.    

Foodstuffs: water,milk,wine,beer,sugar,rice,meat,cheese,flour…this category can get a plural form.

Activities ( including sports,languages,fields of study, natural events): reading,smoking,dancing,soccer,hockey,weather,heat,sunshine,biology,history,applause, photography,traffic,publicity,advice…...this category cannot get a plural form.

d)Use of the articles a and the with the non-count nouns.

It is appropriate to precede the non-count nouns with a definite or indefinite article.

eg. Sunlight is good for your skin OR The sunlight is good for your skin.


5) Plural Abstract Nouns

Abstract nouns refer to ideas or concepts.Some of them can never be pluralized whereas some can be.

eg. peace,warmth,hospitality,anger,education can never be pluralized.

eg. speed,experience,time,friendship,trouble,work,culture,virtue, speed can be pluralized.

  • The actual speeds specific to a particular aircraft.
  • There are difficult times.

6) When a non-count noun is used to classify something, it can be treated as a count noun.Almost all mass nouns( there are exceptions) can be count nouns in the following way:

eg. They import some nice beers.

eg: Your hair looks great except for some white hairs.


This excerpt has been reproduced from the book “The Pearson Guide to Verbal Ability for the CAT and other MBA Entrance Examinations” by Sujit Kumar  published by Dorling Kindersley India Pvt Ltd, licensees of Pearson Education in South Asia. The content has been reproduced with permission from the author.