Functions of a Noun
What does a noun do in a sentence?
It acts as the subject of a sentence that performs the action of the verb. The subject has to be a noun. It cannot be a verb, an adverb, an adjective or any other part of speech. Nouns are basic to sentence structure because they, along with pronouns, provide the subject of the sentence. In addition, a noun functions as a direct object of a verb, an indirect object of a verb, object of a preposition, or a complement.
(1) Noun as subject of verb
The subject (in bold) can be a person, place, thing or idea. It performs an act or shows a state of being as expressed by the verb. The subject is easily recognized as it usually comes at the beginning of a sentence and is followed by a verb.
- The man stepped on my toes.
- The car smashed into a wall.
- Both of them fell down the stairs.
- I accidentally hit my head on the bookshelf.
2) Noun as direct object
The direct object (in bold) is a noun in a sentence. The object is acted upon by the subject, and It typically comes after the verb.
- Tom bit his nail.
- I am painting the doghouse.
- Her dog followed her to the park.
- Strong wind blew their tent down.
(3) Noun as indirect object
The indirect object (in bold) is a noun in a sentence. An indirect object represents a person or thing that receives the effect of the action of the verb. It usually comes between the verb and the direct object.
- He fed the monkeys bananas.
- The mother was cooking her family a seafood dinner.
- Jack sent a letter to his parents.
- She poured drinks for the boys.
(4) Noun as object of a preposition
The object of preposition (in bold) is a noun in a sentence. The object comes after the preposition as shown here in following examples.
- Joe broke his nose in a fight. (Preposition: in)
- Two puppies followed behind the girl. (Preposition: behind)
- Birdwatching is a favourite hobby of the villagers. (Preposition: of)
- Everyone is complaining about the boss. (Preposition: about)
(5) Noun as object of a verbal
A verbal is a word formed from a verb but functions as a noun or an adjective. Only a noun can be an object of a verbal, which can be a gerund, an infinitive or a participle. It is shown in bold in the following example sentences. The objects are underlined.
- Winning the lottery jackpot was his biggest dream.
- To escape from the prison was all he wanted.
- Having found his father’s car keys, he demanded a reward.
(6) Noun as a predicate complement
The predicate complement is a noun (or an adjective) that is joined to the subject of the sentence by a copulative verb. A copulative verb is also known as a linking verb. The following sentences show the predicate complement in bold. The copulative verbs are underlined.
- The tribal chief is the fattest man in the tribe.
- These two apples are the only rotten ones..
- Aunt Barbie could be the biggest woman in the neighbourhood.
(7) Noun acts as an adjective or modifier of another noun.
Words that are usually used as nouns are also used as adjectives, as a separate word preceding the noun or combined with the noun to form a single word (see ‘Compound nouns.’) For example, mountain is usually a noun, but it can be used as an adjective to modify a noun, goat as in (1) below. The following show in bold the nouns acting as adjectives and the modified nouns that follow them and the single words comprising nouns acting as adjectives and the nouns that they modify.
- That one looks like a mountain goat.
- Dog fleas must seek out another dog when the dog dies.
- Blowing out the candles, grandmother’s denture landed on the birthday cake.
- He was snoring under a big beach umbrella.
- Grandfather used to say duck eggs are better than chicken eggs.
A noun must be in the singular form when used as an adjective as shown above. There are, however, some exceptions: sports club, a goods train, a sales conference.
Nouns acting as adjectives are combined with the nouns that they modify to form a single word.
- She saw a dark figure waving to her from herdoorway.
- There is a layer of fine dust on your bookcase.
- In the farmhouse, the hoots of owls were the only things they heard.
- Each night he set several mousetraps around the house and in the garage.
- He brought along his toothpaste but forgot his toothbrush.