Jim Scrivener looks in detail at a question from Module 1 of TKT – Language and background to language learning and teaching.
Try this question
A collective noun
B compound noun
C proper noun
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?
What else should I study?
You also need to know what these are: pronouns, singular nouns, plural nouns, countable nouns, uncountable nouns.
All of the example questions are taken from real TKT sample exams but have been shortened. They are reproduced with the kind permission of University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations.
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TKT Tip 01: Module 1 – Types of nouns