Nouns Possessive & Phrases & Clauses


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This is the last part of the series on "Nouns". Here you can learn a little more about nouns - Possessive, Phrases, & Clauses. This is good to use in your classroom and at home. It has short exercises after each section.

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Nouns Possessive & Phrases & Clauses

  1. 1. Nouns that dog Aunt Audrey's dog the dog digging in the new flower bed
  2. 2. IT HELPS TO KNOW THE HISTORY OF THE POSSESSIVE NOUN In old English, the possessive form was created by adding -es to the end of the noun, regardless of whether it was singular or plural or how it ended. It was a 100% rule — just add -es. Then, inevitably, people starting getting lazy. They realized that all they needed to make a noun sound possessive was the S sound. So, they used as few letters as possible to retain the S sound, and they replaced any missing letters from the original -es with an apostrophe. (NB: Let's not forget that apostrophes are used to replace missing letters. So, really, the apostrophes in possessive nouns are performing their original function.)
  3. 3. Here are some examples: Dog > Doges > dog's bone (Replace the e, but keep the s for the sound.) Dogs > Dogses > dogs' bone (Replace the es. We already have an s sound.) Charles > Charleses > Charles' house (Replace the es. We already have an s sound.) Charles > Charleses > Charles's house (Replace the e, but keep the s, if you want another s sound, i.e., you say Charlesiz and not Charles.) Children > Childrenes > Children's toys (Replace the e, but keep the s for the sound.) It works for every noun on the planet.
  4. 4. Possessive 's When we want to show that something belongs to somebody or something, we usually add 's to a singular noun and an apostrophe ' to a plural noun, for example: the boy's ball (one boy) the boys' ball (two or more boys) Notice that the number of balls does not matter. The structure is influenced by the possessor and not the possessed. one ball more than one ball one boy the boy's ball the boy's balls more than one boy the boys' ball the boys' balls
  5. 5. The structure can be used for a whole phrase: the man next door's mother (the mother of the man next door) the Queen of England's poodles (the poodles of the Queen of England) Although we can use of to show possession, it is more usual to use possessive 's. The following phrases have the same meaning, but #2 is more usual and natural: 1. the boyfriend of my sister 2. my sister's boyfriend
  6. 6. Proper Nouns (Names) We very often use possessive 's with names: This is Mary's car. Where is Ram's telephone? Who took Anthony's pen? I like Tara's hair. When a name ends in s, we usually treat it like any other singular noun, and add 's: This is Charles's chair. But it is possible (especially with older, classical names) to just add the apostrophe ': Who was Jesus' father?
  7. 7. Irregular Plurals Some nouns have irregular plural forms without s (man > men). To show possession, we usually add 's to the plural form of these nouns: singular noun plural noun my child's dog my children's dog the man's work the men's work the mouse's cage the mice's cage a person's clothes people's clothes
  8. 8. Holidays Showing Possession A number of American Holidays have possessive forms, and are peculiarly inconsistent. "Mother's Day" and "Father's Day" are easy enough, one parent at a time, and "Parents' Day" is nicely pluralized, as is "Presidents' Day" which celebrates the birthdays of both Washington and Lincoln. "All Souls' Day (Halloween)," of course, takes a plural possessive. "Veterans Day" is plural but not possessive, for historical reasons shrouded in mystery. Martin Luther King Jr. Day has no possessive. "New Year's Day," "St. Valentine's Day," St. Patrick's Day," and "April Fool's Day" all have their singular possessive form, and so, while we're at it, does "Season's Greetings." Note that "Daylight Saving Time" is neither possessive nor plural.
  9. 9. Compound Possessives When you are showing possession with compounded nouns, the apostrophe's placement depends on whether the nouns are acting separately or together. Miguel's and Cecilia's new cars are in the parking lot. This means that each of them has at least one new car and that their ownership is a separate matter. Miguel and Cecilia's new cars are in the parking lot. This construction tells us that Miguel and Cecilia share ownership of these cars. The possessive (indicated by 's) belongs to the entire phrase, not just to Cecilia.
  10. 10. Another example: Lewis and Clark's expectations were very much the same. This construction tells us that the two gentlemen held one set of expectations in common. Lewis's and Clark's expectations were altogether different. This means that the expectations of the two men were different (rather obvious from what the sentence says, too). We signify separate ownership by writing both of the compounded proper nouns in the possessive form. When one of the possessors in a compound possessive is a personal pronoun, we have to put both possessors in the possessive form or we end up with something silly: "Bill and my car had to be towed last night." Bill's and my car had to be towed last night. Giorgio's and her father was not around much during their childhood. If this second sentence seems unsatisfactory, you might have to do some rewriting so you end up talking about their father, instead, or revert to using both names: "Giorgio and Isabel's father wasn't around much . . . ." (and then "Giorgio" will lose the apostrophe +s).
  11. 11. Let’s try this little exercise: 1. Those boys shoes are in the locker. 2. The women computer was broken. 3. The dog ball went into the street. 4. Ben mom brought his snack to school. 5. The children toys were left out in the rain. boys’ women's dog’s Ben’s children’s Answers Change the nouns in bold type to possessive nouns:
  12. 12. The Noun Phrase Recognize a noun phrase when you see one. A noun phrase includes a noun—a person, place, or thing—and the modifiers which distinguish it. You can find the noun dog in a sentence, for example, but you don't know which canine the writer means until you consider the entire noun phrase: that dog, Aunt Audrey's dog, the dog on the sofa, the neighbor's dog that chases our cat, the dog digging in the new flower bed.
  13. 13. Modifiers can come before or after the noun. Ones that come before might include articles, possessive nouns, possessive pronouns, adjectives, and/or participles. Articles: a dog, the dog Possessive nouns: Aunt Audrey's dog, the neighbor's dog, the police officer's dog Possessive pronouns: our dog, her dog, their dog Adjectives: that dog, the big dog, the spotted dog Participles: the drooling dog, the barking dog, the well trained dog
  14. 14. Modifiers that come after the noun might include prepositional phrases, adjective clauses, participle phrases, and/or infinitives. Prepositional phrases: a dog on the loose, the dog in the front seat, the dog behind the fence Adjective clauses: the dog that chases cats, the dog that looks lost, the dog that won the championship Participle phrases: the dog whining for a treat, the dog clipped at the grooming salon, the dog walked daily Infinitives: the dog to catch, the dog to train, the dog to adopt
  15. 15. Less frequently, a noun phrase will have a pronoun as its base—a word like we, everybody, etc.—and the modifiers which distinguish it. Read these examples: We who were green with envy We = subject pronoun; who were green with envy = modifier. Someone intelligent Someone = indefinite pronoun; intelligent = modifier. No one important No one = indefinite pronoun; important = modifier.
  16. 16. A noun phrase is a phrase that plays the role of a noun. The head word in a noun phrase will be a noun or a pronoun. In the examples below, the whole noun phrase is underlined and the head word is in bold. I like singing in the bath. I know the back streets. I've met the last remaining chief. Compare the three examples above to these: I like it. I know them. I've met him. In these three examples, the words in bold are all pronouns. The ability to replace the noun phrases in the first three examples with a pronoun proves that the shaded texts are functioning as nouns, making them noun phrases. Like any noun, a noun phrase can be a subject, an object, or a complement.
  17. 17. Examples of Noun Phrases Noun phrases are extremely common. A noun with any sort of modifier (including just a number or an article) is a noun phrase. Here are some examples of noun phrases: The best defense against the atom bomb is not to be there when it goes off. (Anon) (In this example, there is a noun phrase within a noun phrase. The noun phrase the atom bomb is the object of the preposition against. The prepositional phrase against the atom bomb modifies defense.) I don't have a bank account, because I don't know my mother's maiden name. (Paula Poundstone) (In this example, both noun phrases are direct objects.) The best car safety device is a rear-view mirror with a cop in it. (Dudley Moore, 1935-2002) (In this example, the first noun phrase is the subject, and the second is a subject complement.) Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former. (Albert Einstein, 1879-1955)
  18. 18. NOUN CLAUSES, NOUN PHRASES, AND SINGLE WORDS Not all grammarians agree on the definitions of clauses and phrases. For some, the term phrase covers everything. In other words, for them, a clause is a type of phrase, and a single word is just a short phrase. Single Word. A single word is not a phrase. Phrase. A phrase plays the role of one part of speech and has at least two words. Clause. A clause plays the role of one part of speech and has a subject and a verb. (Note: On occasion, the subject may be implied.) Therefore, I say, the first underlined text is a noun clause, and the second is a noun phrase: Anybody who wants the presidency so much that he'll spend two years organizing and campaigning for it is not to be trusted with the office. (David Broder)
  19. 19. Click on the one with a noun phrase in bold: Try this exercise now A. Youth would be an ideal state if it came a little later in life. B. Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self. A. When I was a boy I was told that anybody could become President. Now I'm beginning to believe it. B. The thing that impresses me the most about America is the way parents obey their children.
  20. 20. A. Democracy is the name we give the people whenever we need them. B. One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man. A. There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full. B. You can tell a lot about a fellow's character by his way of eating jellybeans. A. I am just going outside and may be some time. B. In America any boy may become President and I suppose it's just one of the risks he takes.
  21. 21. What Are Noun Clauses? A noun clause is a clause that plays the role of a noun. For example (noun clauses underlined): I like what I see. I know that the tide is turning. I've met the man who won the lottery. Compare the three examples above to these: I like cakes. I know London. I've met Madonna. The words in bold are all nouns. This shows that underlined clauses in the first three examples are functioning as nouns, making them noun clauses.
  22. 22. Like any noun, a noun clause can be a subject, an object, or a complement. In a sentence, a noun clause will be a dependent clause. In other words, a noun clause does not stand alone as a complete thought.
  23. 23. Examples of Noun Clauses 1. A person who trusts no one can't be trusted. (Jerome Blattner) (This noun clause is the subject of the sentence.) (Not all agree this is a noun clause.) 2. That he believes his own story is remarkable. (Jerome Blattner) (This noun clause is the subject of the sentence. Be aware that starting a sentence with a noun clause starting That is acceptable, but it grates on lots of people's ears. As a result, many writers prefer to precede it with "The fact…".) 3. Ask your child what he wants for dinner only if he's buying. (Fran Lebowitz) (This noun clause is the direct object of ask.) 4. He knows all about art, but he doesn't know what he likes. (James Thurber, 1894-1961) (This noun clause is the direct object of know.)
  24. 24. 5. It is even harder for the average ape to believe that he has descended from man. (H L Mencken, 1880-1956) (This noun clause is the direct object of believe.) 6. I never know how much of what I say is true. (Bette Midler) (This noun clause is an object of a preposition.) 7. Man is what he eats. (Ludwig Feuerbach) (This noun clause is a subject complement.) 8. My one regret in life is that I am not someone else. (Woody Allen) (This noun clause is a subject complement.) 9. An economist is a man who states the obvious in terms of the incomprehensible. (Alfred A Knopf) (This noun clause is a subject complement.) (Not all agree this is a noun clause.)
  25. 25. COMMON STARTS TO NOUN CLAUSES Lots of noun clauses in English start with that, how, or a "wh"- word (i.e., what, who, which, when, where, why). For example: I know that it happened. I know how it happened. I know why it happened. DEFINITION OF A NOUN CLAUSE A noun clause is a clause that functions as a noun. However, for many, that definition is too generic. A multi-word noun will often contain another type of clause, usually an adjective clause, which provides the verb required for a clause. In the examples below, the multi-word nouns are underlined and internal clauses are in bold.
  26. 26. I've met the man who won the lottery. (In this example, who won the lottery is an adjective clause. Without it, the multi-word noun wouldn't be a clause at all. It would be a phrase (e.g., the lottery-winning man). There is a debate over whether an integral clause makes the multi-word noun a clause.) Here is another example: A cynic is a man who looks around for a coffin when he smells flowers. (H L Mencken, 1880-1956) (In this example, who looks around for a coffin is an adjective clause modified by when he smells flowers (an adverbial clause). They are both part of the multi-word noun (shaded text), but whether or not they make it a noun clause appears to be up for debate.)
  27. 27. Click on the one with a noun clause in bold: Try this exercise now A. Basic research is what I am doing when I don't know what I am doing. (Wernher von Braun, 1912-1977) B. Curiosity killed the cat, but for a while I was a suspect. (Steven Wright) A. The world is my lobster. (Henry J Tillman) B. There is a coherent plan in the universe, though I don't know what it's a plan for. (Fred Hoyle, 1915-2001)
  28. 28. A. An orator is a man who says what he thinks and feels what he says. (William Jennings Bryan, 1860-1925) B. Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons. (Woody Allen) A. Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep. (Fran Lebowitz) B. My one regret in life is that I am not someone else. (Woody Allen) A. A musicologist is a man who can read music but can't hear it. (Sir Thomas Beecham, 1879-1961) B. Truth is more of a stranger than fiction. (Mark Twain, 1835-1910)
  29. 29. The link below is to some worksheets that you can use for class work, home work, or for yourself. Work Sheets Noun Phrases & Clauses Work Sheets noun-phrases-1-zip-1-7-meg?da=y Possessive Noun Work Sheets sentences-zip-451k?da=y
  30. 30. Any questions, comments, advice, and / or wishes – you can email me at