Lecture 4
Noun and Noun Phrase
Teaching Contents
• 4.1 Classification of nouns and
function of noun phrases
• 4.2 Number forms of nouns
• 4.3 Partitives
4.1 Classification of nouns and function of
noun phrases
• 1) Classification of nouns
• a) Simple, compound and derivative nouns: by word•
b) Common and proper nouns: by lexical meaning
C) Countable noun and uncountable noun
This classification is based on the grammatical
features of nouns instead of whether they are
countable. Regarding grammatical features,
uncountable nouns cannot have numeral before them
(*two information), have no plural forms
(*informations) and cannot be modified by “how
many” but by “how much”
• 2) Functions of noun phrases
• Nouns can function as all the elements
in a sentence except the predicative
• e.g. They elected him chairman of the
• He returned last night.
• A photo is taken each time this button
is pushed
• The general pattern of noun phrase is
The premodifier of noun phrase can be noun as
well as adj. or participle.
e.g. a table leg, water supply, the life sciences
When noun is used as premodifier, it can be
either singular, plural, or both.
(1) Singular noun as premodifier
e.g. table legs = legs of a table / tables
a shoe store = a store that sells shoes
a car race = a race between cars
a kitchen sink = a sink in a kitchen
When the plural noun in the postmidifier is changed into
premodifier, it usually becomes singular.
e.g. a cloth for dishes = a dish cloth
decay of teeth = tooth decay
a station for buses = a bus station
a pocket for trousers = a trouser pocket
a tray for ashes = an ash tray
(2)Singular or plural noun as premodifier a.There is
ambiguity here.
foreign language(s) department= department of
foreign languages
• (foreign language department = department of a
foreign language)
soft drinks manufacturer = manufacturer that produces
several kinds of soft drink
soft drink manufacturer = manufacturer that produces
one kind of soft drink
b. different meanings
e.g. an art degree = a degree in fine art
an Arts degree = a degree in the humanities
(3) Only plural noun as premodifier
e.g. a customs officer, a goods train, clothes hanger,
sales technique, contents bill, savings bank
• It is more popular to use plural nouns as
premodifiers in British English than in American
English. Now it tends to increase.
• (4) When the head of the noun phrase is
collective noun or name of an organization, the
plural noun as the premodifier can have two
forms, but the same meaning.
e.g. Scientists(’) Institute for Public Information
But the singular noun is seldom used.
e.g. Yibin Teachers/ Teachers’/ *Teacher’s College
4.2 Number forms of nouns
• Number is a grammatical distinction
which determines whether a noun or
determiner is singular or plural.
• 1) Regular and irregular plural
• The regular is formed by adding –s or
–es to the base, while the irregular is
formed by changing the internal vowel
or by changing the ending of the
• Irregular plurals also include some words of
foreign origin, borrowed from Greek, Latin or
French. Their plural forms are known as
“foreign plurals”, e.g. basis—bases, criterion—
• Some borrowed words have two plural forms:
a foreign plural and an English one.
• e.g. medium—media – mediums
• For some, their singular and plural number
share the same form,
• A) animal names
a) Singular form and regular plural coexist:
Antelope, elk, fish, flounder, herring, reindeer,
shrimp, woodcock
e.g. He caught several fish/three little
They went catching shrimp/shrimps.
I shot two elk/elks.
b) Singular form is usually used: bison,
grouse, quail, salmon, swine
(野牛 , 松鸡,鹌鹑,鲑(大麻哈鱼),猪)
e.g. The farmer raises many quail/quails
and chickens.
c) Singular form is always used: cod, deer,
mackerel, trout, sheep.(鳕,鹿,鲐鱼,
真鳟)e.g. This is a deer.
Those are deer.
• B). Nationality nouns
Some words ending in sound /z/ or /s/ use singular form:
Chinese, Japanese, Lebanese, Portuguese, Sinhalese,
Vietnamese, Swiss
e.g. I am a Chinese.
There are four Chinese in the training class.
C) Quantitative nouns (hundred/thousand/million/billion)
a) Cardinal numeral + hundred/thousand/million/billion
e.g. two hundred / *two hundred of years ago
That’s going to take hundreds of/*hundreds years.
• Cardinal numeral + million + n.
• Cardinal numeral + millions of + n.
e.g. three millions of dollars
three million dollars
When the noun is omitted, if it is not monetary
unit, the singular form is more often used than
the plural form; if it is, the regular plural form is
e.g. The population rose to four million / millions.
The firm had to pay three millions.
b) several/many/a few + singular / plural (of)+ n.
e.g. He has played the part several hundred
times / several hundreds of times.
some + regular plural + n.
e.g. He has played the piano some hundreds of
times / many, many times.
(some hundred times = about a hundred times)
c) dozen, score
e.g. She bought three score (of) eggs.
I have been there dozens of times.
He has already asked me several dozens of/
many scores of times.
• 2) Number forms of the collective, material,
abstract and proper nouns
• a) Number forms of the collective noun
• Some are countable, while some are not.
Countable nouns behave like individual nouns.
An uncountable one has no plural form; if we
want to count the number, we will use a kind of
individual noun related semantically to the
collective, e.g. poetry—poem.
• Some collective nouns can be used in
either singular or plural sense. The
following verb is determined by the
singular or plural sense.
• b) Number forms of the material noun
• Generally they are [U] and have no plural
form. However, some items can be used
either uncountably or countably.
• Some material nouns can take plural endings to
convey the large quantity or scope ,
e.g. sand/sands, snow/snows
• Sometimes material nouns are [C] to express
“one type of” or “various types of” this material.
e.g. I
n Britain tea is usually drunk with sugar
in it.
I’d like to have a famous tea.
• We hardly bought wine at lunch time.
• We like wines and liquors.
• Some material nouns become [C] to express
“packet of ”, “cups of”.
e.g. How many beers were you wanting?
How many tins of beer were you wanting?
• When referring to the material itself, they are
[U]; otherwise, they are [C], e.g. stone, rubber
• c) Number forms of the abstract noun
• Mostly they are [U] and cannot take such
determiners as a/one or plural forms. A few are
[C], e.g. victory—victories.
• Some are not [C], although they have plural
endings, e.g. *several difficulties.
• The addition of a plural ending to some can
change the meaning of the base, e.g.
• Some can only use singular form with “a”,
some only plural form, some both.
e.g. He has a dislike/dread/hatred/horror/love of
• He had a good knowledge of mathematics.
• Give my best regards to your parents.
• He refused with much regret / many regrets.
• I have a suspicion / suspicions that he’s right.
• Some abstract nouns can have indefinite
article to express “a type of” or “an example
a) Some can have an indefinite article only if
modifier exists.
e.g. They are doing *a business / a brisk
I attach an exaggerated
importance/importance to regular exercise.
b) If modifier is implied, “a/an” can appear.
e.g. She has had an education (= a good
c) Some can have “a/an” regardless of modifier.
e.g. A knowledge/ A good knowledge of English
is essential.
• d) Number forms of the proper noun
• They have no plural forms, except for such
proper name as the United States, the
Philippines, the Netherlands. When one
takes a plural ending, it takes on some
characteristics of a common noun, e.g. the
4.3 Partitives
• They are also called unit nouns and used to denote a
part of a whole or the quantity of an undifferentiated
1) general partitives: piece, bit, item, article
2) partitives related to the shape of things: cake, bar,
drop, ear, flight, grain, head, loaf, lump
3) partitives related to volume: bottle, bowl, pail,
bucket, handful, spoonful.
4) partitives related to the state of action: a fit of
5) partitives denoting pairs, groups, flocks: pair, herd,
litter, swarm, bench, troupe, shoal.