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Lecture II:Nouns, noun phrases and determiners.

First, we begin talking about nouns. There are a couple of groups of nouns:

COMMON NOUNS- the biggest group of nouns in English-:

Concrete (physical things we can see and touch) table, book
Abstract (feelings) anger, cofusion

PROPER NOUNS-which are the names of people, places, etc-they usually have capital
letters: Irene, the White House. Buddhism


Personal names Emily, Harrison

Geographical names France, Paris
Commercial products Chrysler, Lambi
Holidays, months, days Easter, January, Tuesday
ReligionsChristianity, Marxism, Allah
Family members (optional) Father, Mother


Person or bodies with unique public function the Queen, Parliament

Public building, laws, institutions the Albert Hall,the Health&Safety Act, Congress
Political parties&their members the Labour Party, the Democrats
Language&nationalities French, Canadian, a Swede

Regular plurals
One of the properties of nouns in English they can be made plural. Sometimes it
changes the form completely but mostly regular plural end in –s or –es.
o –s/-es
o Cat > cats boy> boys case> cases
o Consonant plus –y. When they preceed a consonant the y > i
o Copy> copies fly> flies
o Other –y words
o Boys, essays
Irregular and foreign plural

Goose> geese
Mouse> mice
Basis> bases
Formula > formulae

Collective nouns

They are group of entities, collection of things or people as the name implies. As an
example of it: army, audience, board, committee, crew, family, jury, staff, and team.
They behave like ordinary countable nouns but they are special regard to subject-verb
agreement and co-referent pronouns.
The two teams are playing tonight
The team has won again
The team are getting on the bus

But they work as plural too. In the singular form we can either treat them as sing or
plural depending on how you would like to see them. A team can be seen as an entity
one single thing then we’ll treat them as singular but if I’m thinking of a team as a
group of individuals I might use the plural form (3) I’m thinking of separate people

Collective nouns( con’t)

There are few collective nouns do not allow contrast for number or definitenes because
they refer to this unique institution, there are no more than one  Congress, the United
Nations, Liverpool (football team), the Aristocracry, the press.

There is an important distinction to be made in nouns and this can be considered when
we have to think about subject-verb agreement in sentences and that is
Countable&Uncountable. Countable nouns can be counted and they can be made into
the plural and uncountable nouns are just the opposite. You will notice that the majority
of nouns are countable in English.

Countable nouns
Can be made into the plural > table >tables person> people
They can take the indefinite article and numbers as determiners (they
must have some sort of determiner in the singular) > an income not *I
have income I have an income
Plural countables used in the general (generic) sense do not take the
definite article > Managers are usually paid well
They do not have plural form
Do not normally take the indefinite article
EXCEPTION: A good knowledge of Maths
Uncountable and plural countables do not take the definite article when
used in generic reference
They have singular agreement
This unemployment is a problem and it is not going away

My children drink milk

My daughter drank the milk in the glass
Do you have some milk?
Would you like a glass of milk?

Some nouns are countable others are uncountable and some nouns can be countable or
uncountable depending on the context.
COUNT > we have an oak in the garden (a type of tree)
UNCOUNT > this table is made of oak (a type of wood)
The article (within determiners)
o The indefinite article a house an old book
We use an when the followin word begins with a vowel sound

o The definite article: the house, the hour

o Zero article-no article at all-: hour, house

When do we use the indefinite article?

Used with singular countable nouns
Usually refers to a single member class (a cat, a dog, a house)
Often introduces a new specific entity (I’ve bought a new car)
Also used when not referring to any specific individual
Also to classify an entity or what is typical of any member of a class (an
elephant is a large animal)

When do we use the definite article?

Used with countables and uncountables
The referent of the noun is assumed to be known the speaker and the addressee
I saw it on the television
I am reading a book and the first chapter is very exciting

When do we use the zero article?

Used with uncountables and countables nouns
Zero article noun phrase commonly express non- specific or generic reference
Life is wonderful- generic reference-
We have wine in the cellar- just some wine not a concrete one-

Generic reference
Reference is generic (general) when a noun phrase refers to a whole class rather to an
individual person, animal or thing or something such as life as general. I can express
generic reference using zero article as in the first sentence:
Cows are mammals (plural indefinite form)
A cow is a mammal (indefinite form, general reference)
The cow is a mammal (definite form)
Specfic reference
For specific reference we have plural such as
The cows in this field are lyring down (plural definite form)
There are some cows in the field (pl indef form)
There is a cow facing the church (sing indef form, one specific)

Notice they are followed by some post-modification to helpt clarify this reference.

Now, let’s move to the phrase level and firstly we find

Noun phrases
We talked about the word class noun, but nouns typically occur in a NP. The noun is
the head (the most important element in the phrase). There can be a number of other
elements in the noun phrase, such as, determiners, premodifiers and postmodifiers.
A building < determiner and the noun
The building with the dark windows < definite article, noun, postmodifier PrepP
The big building that we just walked passed< det, premodifier (big), noun, postm

Determiners and premodifiers

Determiners specify the reference of a noun
o Predeterminers: all, both, half, twice
o Central determiners: a, the, this, my
o Postdeterminers: some, other, last, next, fifth, two

Premodifiers come before the noun they modify and denote a quality of the noun and
are usually adjectives.
Det. Premod. Noun
A big dog
This old statue
The sharpest knife
Certain expressions can only be used with countable nouns > many cars, a number of

Some only can be used with uncountables > a great deal of traffic, much furniture, a
large amount of cheese

Some can be used with both> a lot of cars, a lof of traffic, some tables, some furniture
Coming after the NP.These are typically preposition phrases
In the window
With the brown coat
Or relative clauses
That I showed yesterday
Which I would rather not talk about

Noun phrases
Noun phrases are usually the subject S or the object O of a sentence
The building is very big
The player hit the ball
But they can also be the complement C
My sister is a tennis player