Nouns: The basics

Unfortunately for writers who chafe at rules and those attempting to unravel the structure of the sentence, nouns can show up almost anywhere in a sentence.

To determine whether a word is acting as a noun, first remember the tried and true wisdom that a noun is a person, a place, a thing or an idea.

Second, and perhaps a little trickier, a noun can be an action. Let’s be clear here: A noun cannot be an action in the same way a verb can. A verb has a subject doing an action.


  • Bill ran.

BILL is the subject and RAN is the verb. An action acting as a noun is the THING that is doing (the SUBJECT) or being done to (the OBJECT).

  • Running seems fun.

RUNNING is the subject; SEEMS is the verb.

  • Bill enjoys running

BILL is the subject. ENJOYS is a transitive verb and RUNNING is the direct object.

There are six types of nouns to consider:

(1) The subject: the person, place, thing or idea that is doing or being something in the clause or sentence

(2) the direct object: the noun that receives the action of the transitive verb

(3) the indirect object: the noun or pronoun that receives the direct object

(4) the predicate nominative: the noun following a linking verb that restates or stands for the subject

(5)the object of the preposition: the noun that follows the preposition

(6) the object of the verbal: the noun that follows the verbal and “receives” it.

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  1. Mel says

    Hello. I had a question about the clause above that says that a noun can be an action. If I look at the sentence, “Running seems fun.” could I say that running is a gerund? I’m just trying to understand if a gerund and a noun “representing” an action is the same thing. Thank you:)

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