1 NOUNS AND NOUN PHRASES
There are plenty of good English teachers. But really good English teachers, particularly native speakers, are rare. Okay, the cartoon is an exaggeration, but there are many who are simply unable to express themselves to be understood. It is a bit like letting someone who is enthusiastic at software teach you how to use a computer program. You will be lost after they have only just finished reading the first sentence.
Thankfully we are not going to take this direction as regards teaching this rather complicated subject, but it will require careful concentration and study on your part. We will try to explain this as simply and easily as we can. But it will be in English. Sorry, but I do not know if an online translator will explain this better in your native language...
So we begin.
And for our first lesson we have to be sure we understand something else. We use articles before words that, in grammar language, are called nouns. We should remind ourselves as to what exactly are nouns, as these are the most important things when it comes to understanding the use of articles.
A noun is a naming word. For example, what is the name we give to a piece of furniture that has a back and four legs?
Chair is a noun. It is a noun in the same way that we have other naming words such as table, bottle, car, fish, shirt, curtain, and bridge.
We also use these naming words not only for things, but for what people do, and what we call animals: Doctor, engineer, teacher, cat, cow, jellyfish.
A noun phrase is basically a noun which has other words before or after it, and which adds further information to what the thing is, or the main noun. Some of these words are usually adjectives, and are also known as describing words. There can be more than one of them: a small house. The first three green shirts.
Some words can follow the main noun to add further information to the kind of noun it is: A box of chocolates. Box is the main noun, with chocolates added to tell us what kind of box this is.
There are many exceptions to this rule, so we will keep to the basics.
So more examples of noun phrases might be these:
A delicious packet of crisps. A nice person. A really beautiful car.
(Extra note: really is an example of a word that is used to make the word ‘beautiful’ even stronger in meaning. These words are known as intensifiers – that is, they ‘intensify’ – or make stronger – the word that comes after it.)
b) A QUICK CHECK (5 minutes)
Which of these words are nouns? Which are adjectives? Can you make any noun phrases from these words?
bottle dish pretty bed comfortable pen television big girl glass wine
You have probably chosen bottle, dish, bed, pen, television, girl, glass, and wine as nouns. Pretty, comfortable, and big you should have chosen as adjectives. However, both wine and glass could be used either as a noun or an adjective, depending on the context: A wine glass (a container for drinking wine) or a glass bottle.
Examples of noun phrases that you could make from the words above could be a big bottle of wine, a comfortable bed, a pretty girl.
Just like in many other European-based languages, nouns can come in two forms – countable and uncountable, which we will now review.
c) A QUICK CHECK (5 minutes)
Can you decide which nouns are countable and which are uncountable?
Pencil dog air sugar rice picture bread butter traffic orange
You can count pencils, dogs, and pictures. You can see many of them and you would be able to count them all individually.
But can you count air, sugar, rice, bread, butter, traffic and orange?
Realistically you can not be expected to count all the individual grains that make up sugar and rice.
Bread and butter are made up of uncountable items such as flour, water, and milk. If we want to count many of these things, we have to describe them as one unit in the form or container that they come in: A loaf of bread. A packet of butter. A glass of milk. A bar of chocolate. A cylinder of oxygen. A bag of rice.
Of course, I am sure that many of you know that orange can be both countable or uncountable – countable in the form of the fruit and the individual colour, and uncountable in the form of juice.
To realize these points is important when it comes to understanding the use of articles with nouns and noun phrases.
Yes – it is before these words that we use a, an, the, or nothing at all (which we sometimes refer to as the zero article).
We will learn more about these later.
But next – what exactly are articles? And why is it important to learn about determiners?
Click next below to find out.