Number one for English language teachers

TKT Tip 01: Module 1 - Types of nouns

Level: Pre-intermediate, Intermediate, Upper intermediate Type: Reference material

This month Jim looks at a question from Module 1, Part 1 of TKT: Language and background to language learning and teaching.

In this regular column we help you to improve your answers to questions in TKT – the Teaching Knowledge Test set by University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations. Each month we look closely at one question and find out why the correct answers are right. All of the example questions are taken from real TKT sample exams but have been shortened.


Try this question*:

Kofie stood on the shore of (1) Lake Volta and looked at the small (2) fishing boat bobbing on the waves. His (3) family often went hungry and he could have caught fish if only he had a boat.
Match the underlined words with the grammatical terms.
A collective noun
B  compound noun
C  proper noun

* Reproduced with the kind permission of University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations.


Question focus

This question asks you to recognise different kinds of nouns in a text. To be able to answer this correctly you will need to know the grammatical names for these nouns.


What you need to know

A collective noun is a noun whose meaning includes a number of people or animals. For example, the word police is a collective noun. When we talk about the police, we are not talking about one policeman or one policewoman, but about a large number of people who work for the organisation. Other common collective nouns include class, team, family, army and group.

One unusual thing about collective nouns is that you can use them with either a singular or a plural verb. If you are thinking about the whole organisation, you can say, The police is an important organisation. If you are thinking about the individual people who are members of the organisation, you can say, The police are well-trained.

A compound noun is a noun that is made from two or more words. For example, the word streetlight is made from the two nouns street and light. Compound nouns are not only made from noun + noun. They are also formed from nouns with prepositions, adjectives and verbs. You can write compound nouns in different ways – as one word (e..g. boyfriend), as separate words (e.g. season ticket), or as two words with a hyphen (e.g. house-builder). Even more surprising, different dictionaries don’t always agree about how to write them – for example, is the correct word penfriend, pen friend or pen-friend?

A proper noun is the name of something. This can be a person, a place, an organisation etc. The following are all proper nouns: Lake Turkana, Jim, Mrs Jones, Microsoft, Easyjet). In English, proper nouns are always written with a capital letter. We can’t normally use indefinite articles (a or an) in front of proper nouns. It’s also unusual to use definite articles (though this is not always true – for example, The Nile).


So what are the answers?

1(c); 2(b); 3(a)

What else should I study?

You also need to know what these are: pronouns, singular nouns, plural nouns, countable nouns, uncountable nouns.

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