The correct use of Noun is not a difficult task. We have already explained some of the rules of Noun in the Second Chapter on Syntax. The main difficulty in the use of Noun arises in the correct use of Gender, Number and Possessive case. Therefore, before taking up the Rules of Noun, it is essential to understand the rules regarding the formation of Gender, Number and Possessive cases.The following are their Rules—
Formation of Gender
The following are the three Rules of formation of Feminine Gender from the Masculine Gender—
- By adding-ess,- ine,- trix, -a to the word in the Masculine Gender. The addition of-ess is most popular. As—
(b) By removing the last Vowel in the Masculine word before adding–ess in the following words—
(c) By adding -ine, -trix, -a—
- By adding an entirely new word before or after the Masculine word. As—
- The Feminines of the following Masculines are quite different from their originals. As—
Conversion of Number
The following are the Rules of formation of Plural Number—
(1) In most cases by adding -s to the Singular Number. As—
- By adding -es to the Singular Number in words ending in -s, -sh, -ch, or -x. As—
- In words ending in -o generally -es is added. As—
- But in words ending in -oo, -io, -eo or -yo only -s is added. As—
- When a word ends in -y, and before -y there is a consonant, -y is replaced by -ies. As—
- In words ending in -f or -fe in the Singular Number, -f or -fe are replaced by -ves. As—
- In the following eight Nouns changes are made in the Vowels used withen them. They are—
- In the following four Nouns -en or -ne are added. They are—
- Some Nouns remain the same both in the Singular and Plural forms. As—
- The Plurals of Compound Nouns are formed by adding -s to the Principal word in the compound form. As—
- For forming the Plurals of Letters / Alphabet, Figures, Abbreviations and Symbols, Apostrophe -’ s is added. As—
- Sometimes Surnames can be used in the Plural Number,
Smith—the Miss Smiths or the Misses Smith. Mr. Ray—the Rays.
- We give below the Plurals of some popular foreign words (Greek, Latin, etc.)
Note—In English Agenda is used as a Singular Number only.
Formation of Possessive (or Genitive) Case
Rules of Formation of Possessive (or Genitive) Case—
(1) By adding Apostrophe ’s
(a) By adding ’s to the Singular Nouns standing for Persons. As— Ram’s book, the teacher’s desk, the doctor’s clinic, the lawyer’s office.
(b) Apostrophe ’s is also used with bigger animals and those very familiar. As— Elephant’s trunk, horse’s colour, lion’s share, tiger’s den, bull’s horns, dog’s tail.
Note—Apostrophe ’s is not used with small animals and insects.
(c) Apostrophe ’s is also used with personified objects. As— Nature’s laws, Fortune’s favour, Death’s sting.
(d) Apostrophe ’s is also used with Neuter Gender Nouns showing time, place, distance, weight or value. One day’s leave, at week’s end, at a stone’s throw, by month’s end, at a pound’s cost, a minute’s rest, at a yard’s distance
(e) With some special phrases. As— at arm’s length, at fingers’tips, for heaven’s sake, for goodness’ sake
(f) Double Apostrophe ’s should not be used. As— This is Ram’s father’s house. The above sentence has double Apostrophe –’s which is wrong. It should be written thus— This is the house of Ram’s father. Here one Possessive has been formed by using -’s and the other by the use of connective of. This is the correct way. The father of Ram’s friend has come. (Not Ram’s friend’s father…)
(g) Some words are there which are left out after Apostrophe ’s, because their sense is implied in the sentence itself. As—church, cathedral, school, shop, house, etc.
- I bought this book from Mac Millan’s. (shop is understood)
- I am a student of St. John’s. (School or College is understood)
- I have my dinner today at my friend’s. (house is understood)
- If there are several hissing sounds (sound of s or sh) at the end of a word, only the mark of Apostrophe (’) is used without s after it. As— For conscience’ sake; for justice’ sake; Moses’ laws.
Note—Keats’s poetry or Keats’ poetry, or Collins’s poetry or Collins’ poetry are both correct.
- If a Plural Noun has s at the end, only the mark of Apostrophe’ is used without s after it. As— Girls’ hostel; boys’ school, horses’tails. Men’s club; Children’s books.
- If the Noun is in Plural Number but without s at its end, full Apostrophe (’s) is used. As—
Men’s club,Children’s books.
- If a Noun or a title is made of several words, Apostrophe ’s is used only with the last word. As— The Rana of Mewar’s palace, The Government of India’s orders.
- If two or more Nouns are inseparably joined together, Apostrophe ’s is used only with the last word. As— Legouis and Cazamian’s History of English Literature. Rowe and Webb’s Book of Grammar.
- If two or more Nouns have their own separate possessives, Apostrophe ’s is used each time. As— Marlowe’s and Shakespeare’s Plays, Ram’s and Mohan’s houses.
- Possessive case by ‘of’
(a) Possessives of inanimate things are made by using of, not by Apostrophe ’s. As— Leg of the table (not, table’s leg) Lock of the door (not, door’s lock) Pages of the book (not, book’s pages) Nib of the pen (not, pen’s nib)
(b) For small animals and insects also of is used (not ’s) for their possessives. As— wings of a butterfly, sting of a scorpion, legs of a stag, etc.
(c) If a Possessive Noun is qualified by a phrase or a clause, Possessive is made by the use of of. As— These are the toys of the children who are sleeping. The milk of the cow which is black.
- Double Genitives—Sometimes Double Genitives are also used. In such cases Apostrophe ’s is used with the noun coming after o f, or Possessive Pronoun (mine, yours, theirs, hers) is used without any further possessive mark or word. As—
- This is a book of mine.
- Ram is a friend of Mohan’s.
- Tempest is a play of Shakespeare’s.
Note—With such structures it is important to note that they give the suggestion of one of the many. Thus, the sentence : This is a book of mine means this is one of my many books. Therefore, this structure should not be used where the reference is to one thing or one person only. As such, the following sentence is wrong—
He is a father of mine.
She is a mother of mine.
These sentences would mean that ‘he is one of my many fathers’ or ‘she is one of my many mothers.’ This would be just absurd. These sentences should be written thus—
He is my father.
She is my mother.
Rules of Nouns
The following are the Rules of Nouns—
Rule 1—Nouns always Plural The under noted Nouns are always used in the Plural Number. They always take Plural verbs. They cannot be used as Singular Nouns by removing s. They are—
Alms, thanks, riches, caves, species, scissors, trousers, pants, clippers, tongs, bellows, gallows, fangs, measels, eyeglasses, goggles, amends, annals, archives, ashes, arrears, athletics, auspices, belongings, breeches, bowels, braces, binoculars, billiards, customs, congratulations, dregs, earnings, entrails, embers, fetters, fireworks, lodgings, lees, mumps, odds, outskirts, particulars, proceeds, proceedings, regards, remains, savings, shambles, shears, spectacles, surroundings, tidings, troops, tactics, vegetables, valuables, wages, works, innings. These Nouns are always used as Plural Nouns with Plural verbs. As—
- He gave him alms. (‘He gave him an alm’ is wrong)
- His trousers are dirty. (‘His trouser is dirty’ is wrong)
- He lives on the outskirts of the town.
- What are your monthly earnings ?
Rule 2—Nouns always Singular Some Nouns are always used in the Singular Number. They are—Poetry, scenery, machinery, stationery, crockery, luggage, baggage, postage, knowledge, breakage, jewellery, information, furniture, money, wastage. As—
- Kashmir is famous for its colourful scenery. (not sceneries)
- It is an anthology of poetry. (not poetries)
- He has imported all his machinery from Germany. (not machineries)
- I have no information from him. (not informations)
Note—If it is necessary to indicate the Singular or the Plural number of these nouns, the method is this :
(a) for Singular Number, we say a piece of, an item of, an article of, and
(b) for Plural Number we use pieces of, items of, articles of, kinds of, etc. These phrases are placed before these Nouns, but the Noun is retained in the Singular number. As—
- I have a piece of information for you.
- This item of your furniture is really beautiful.
- I don’t like this article of jewellery.
- All kinds of furniture are available here.
- I want only a few articles of stationery.
- All pieces of information given by him are wrong.
Rule 3—Nouns Plural in Form but Singular in Use There are some Nouns which are Plural in form but Singular in usage. They always take a Singular verb. They are—News, Innings, Physics, Politics, Mathematics, Mechanics, Ethics, Economics, etc. As—
- Mathematics is a difficult subject.
- Ethics makes the basis of good life.
- Politics has lost its moral character.
- Economics is an optional subject.
- The news is good.
Rule 4—Nouns Singular in Form but Plural in Use There are some Nouns which are Singular in form but Plural in meaning. They always take a Plural verb. They are—Cattle, gentry, clergy, cavalry, infantry, nobility, poultry, peasantry, children, admiralty, yeomantry, etc. Family is used both in the Singular and Plural numbers according to sense. As—
- The cattle are grazing in the field.
- The peasantry are very happy.
- Our cavalry are very strong.
Note—(1) Since these Nouns are used only in Plural Number (though singular in form), they should not be made Plural by adding -s or -es. For example, the following sentences are wrong— The gentries have come. Our poultries are healthy.
(2) The following Nouns remain the same in both Singular and Plural numbers and they can be used both as Singular and Plural in the same form. They should not be made Plural by adding -s or -es. They are—Swine, vermin, mankind, police, public, etc. As—
- The police has been informed. or The police have taken action.
- The swine are dirty animals. or You are a dirty swine.
(3) ‘People’ in the sense of group of persons is always used in the Plural number. But when the word ‘People’ is used in the sense of a Nation, it can be used both as Singular (a people) and Plural as—‘The Peoples of India and China are on friendly terms.’
Rule 5—Noun with Numeral Adjective Some Nouns coming after Definite Numeral Adjectives are always used in the Singular Number. They are—Pair, dozen, score, gross, stone, hundred, thousand, million, billion, etc. As— Two pair of shoes (not two pairs of shoes); four dozen pencils; three score and ten; five thousand rupees, ten million people, etc. But if the Numeral Adjective is Indefinite, all the Nouns given above will be used in the Plural Number. As— Dozens of people; thousands of workers; millions of pounds; scores of houses; many pairs of shoes; in millions, etc.
Rule 6—Numeral Adjective + Hyphen + Noun If a compound word is formed by joining a Definite Numeral Adjective and a Noun (by a hyphen), the Noun so used will always be in the Singular Number. As—
- Here is a five-rupee note. Here you will see that a Definite Numeral Adjective (five) is joined with a Noun (rupee) by a hyphen, and the Noun (rupee) is in Singular Number. It will be wrong to say five-rupees note. Similarly the following sentences are correct—
- Please lend me a ten-rupee note.
- He gave me a hundred-rupee note.
- This is included in our five-year plan.
- He fell down from a ten-foot high wall.
- A three-man enquiry committee has been set up.
- There was a twenty-foot deep ditch.
- A five-judge bench will hear this case.
Rule 7—Noun + Preposition + the same Noun repeated If the same Noun is repeated before and after a Preposition, the Noun is used in the Singular Number each time. In such cases the verb is also used in the Singular Number. As— Ship after ship arrived at the port. Here ships after ships will be wrong. Similarly the following sentences are correct—
- Mistake after mistake was committed.
- Chance after chance was lost.
- He begged from door to door.
- Wave upon wave rose in the sea.
- We can read meaning within meaning in this poem.
Rule 8—Article + several Adjectives + Noun If two or more than two Adjectives are connected with and and the Article has been used only before the first Adjective, the Noun used after them will be in the Plural Number. But if the Article is used before each Adjective, the Noun will be in the Singular Number. As—
- Shakespeare was very popular in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
- Shakespeare was very popular in the sixteenth and the seventeenth century.
- Very heavy wigs were worn in the Elizabethan and Jacobean Ages.
- Very heavy wigs were worn in the Elizabethan and the Jacobean Age.
Rule 9—Numeral Adjective + Noun + Fraction If a Numeral Adjective and a fraction (a half, a quarter, three quarters, etc.) are to be used with a Noun, the structure of the sentence will be as follows—
- The train is late by one hour and a half.
- The train is late by two hours and a half.
The following structure will be wrong—
- The train is late by one and a half hour.
- The train is late by two and a half hours.
Under this Rule the correct structure is this— Noun is used after the Numeral Adjective, and the Number of the Noun is Singular or Plural according to the Numeral Adjective (i. e. the Noun is Singular with a / an / one, and Plural with two, three, etc.) And after the Noun the Fractions (and a half, and a quarter, and three quarters, etc.) should be used. The following are some more examples—
- I have one rupee and a half.
- I have read five chapters and a half.
- I have been waiting for five hours and a quarter.
- The distance is four kilometres and three quarters.
- Its weight is a kilo and a half.
Expressions such as One and a half rupee; five and a half chapters; five and a quarter hours; four and three quarters kilometres; one and a half kilo are wrong.
Note—If a Numeral Adjective and a fraction are joined by and and they are used in the sense of multiplication, the Noun is placed after them, and the Noun is always used in the Plural Number. As—
- The amount will grow one and a half times.
- The amount will grow two and a half times. In such cases One time and a half or two times and a half are wrong.
Rule 10—Adjectives used as Plural Nouns Some Adjectives preceded by the are used as Plural Nouns. As—The poor; the rich; the sick; the down-trodden; the meak, etc. As—
- We should help the poor.
- The rich should not be proud.
- The meak are blessed.
- The sick should be carefully looked after.
It is wrong to try to make these Adjectives Plural by adding -s or -es to them. They are already Plural in their sense. As—the poors, the riches, the meaks, or the sicks. All these are wrong expressions.
Rule 11—Nouns/Pronouns of Common Gender (Dual Gender) (a) The following Nouns are of Common Gender, i.e., they can be used both as Masculine or Feminine Genders. Thus, they are of Dual Gender. They are—
Child, baby, friend, student, teacher, lecturer, professor, pupil, artist, author, reader, servant, worker, poet, speaker, writer, typist, engineer, lawyer, advocate, client, clerk, conductor, musician, politician, minister, leader, dealer, secretary, enemy, parent, relation, cousin, orphan, neighbour, person, president, monarch, statesman, publicman, chairman, sportsman, spokesman, spokesperson, chairperson. As—
- She is my friend.
- He is my friend.
- My teacher is Miss Bose.
- My teacher is Mr. Bose.
- He is our Finance Minister.
- She is our Finance Minister.
Note—(1) Some Grammarians hold that Nouns of Common Gender which have–man joined with them should not be used with Feminine Gender Nouns. Such a use would appear odd. As— She is a sportsman / chairman / spokesman/ publicman/statesman. In such cases –person has come to be used in place of –man. As— chairperson, spokesperson, sportsperson, public person, statesperson, mediaperson, etc.
(2) Sometimes Poetess and Authoress are also used for Feminine Gender.
(3) A typical difficulty arises when a Pronoun is to be used with a Common Gender Noun in the Singular Number. For example, which of the following pronouns (his or her) is correct.
- Every teacher should do his duty. or Every teacher should do her duty.
In all such cases Third Person, Masculine Gender (his) should be used.
- Every teacher should do his duty.
- No student should waste his time.
Some scholars hold that both genders connected with or (his or her) should be used. Every teacher should do his or her duty. But this can be desirable in legal language only. In the normal routine case only Third Person Masculine (He, His, Him) should be used.
Rule 12—Nouns with one meaning in Singular and another in Plural. Some Nouns have one meaning in the Singular Number and another and quite different meaning in the Plural Number. They are—
Singular (Normal Meaning) Plural (Typical Meaning) Abuse (misuse) Abuses (Bad habits and customs) Advice (counsel, opinion) Advices (items of information) Air Airs (arrogant show) Alphabet Alphabets (languages) Compass (limit) Compasses (a geometrical instrument) Colour Colours (flag) Custom Customs (levies on goods imported) Effect (as noun) Effects (household luggage) Force Forces (armies) Good
Goods (luggage) Iron Irons (chains, fetters) Manner Manners (behaviour) Number Numbers (feet or rhythm in poetry) Pain Pains (efforts) Premise (supposition, Premises (site, situation) Introduction) Physic (medicine) Physics (a branch of science) Quarter (fourth part) Quarters (small houses) Return Returns (accounting) Sand Sands (desert) Water Waters (oceans) Wood Woods (jungle) Letter Letters (Literature, scholarship) Ground Grounds (reasons)