Learn English Grammar: Lesson 15 – Functions of Nouns in a Sentence

A noun can have three important functions in a sentence. A noun can be a subject, a direct object, or an object of a preposition.

  • subject:                         Mrs. Williams is eighty years old.
  • direct object:                 Because it was her birthday, we called Mrs. Williams.
  • object of a preposition:   I talked about Mrs. Williams with my family.
  1. Nouns as Subjects

One function of a noun is the subject of a sentence. The subject of a sentence is the noun (or pronoun) that does the action of the verb. The subject can be a single word, such as rock, or a noun phrase. A noun phrase consists of a noun and all the words that go with it such as a heavy gray rock

  • Kangaroos jump incredibly high
  • A kangaroo has a very special tail
  • They use their long, heavy tails for balance

to find the subject, first find the verb(the action word) in the sentence. Then ask: “who” or “what” does the action of the verb? The answer will be the subject

Kangaroos jump incredibly high

  • Question What is the action word?
  • Answer: jump = action = verb
  • Question: Who or What jump?
  • Answer: Kangaroos = doer of action = subject

2. Nouns as Direct Objects

A sentence often has a noun after the verb. This noun is called the direct object. The direct object tells who or what receives the action of the verb.

Monkeys eat bananas.

  • Question:         What is the verb?
  • Answer:            eat = action = verb
  • Question:         Who or what eats?
  • Answer:            monkeys = doer of action = subject
  • Question:          What does the monkey eat?
  • Answer:            bananas = receiver of action = direct object

3. Nouns os Objects of Prepositions

The third function of a noun in a sentence is the object of a preposition. The object of a preposition is found within a prepositional phrase, which usually consists of a preposition and the words that go with it.

Ex: Susan walked to the supermarket in the morning.

  • to the supermarket: PREP + OBJECT
  • in the morning:  PREP + OBJECT

A preposition may be followed by a noun or a pronoun and the words that go with it. The noun can be a concrete noun, an abstract noun, or a verb used as a noun (gerund).

  • I went to the bank, (bank = concrete noun)
  • I believe in complete honesty, (honesty = abstract noun)
  • I am in favor of taking a break now. (taking = verb used as noun = gerund)
  • I gave the money to him yesterday, (him = pronoun)

Learn English Grammar: Lesson 16 – Possessive Forms of Nouns