The principal functions of a noun in a sentence are:
|1. Subject of a Verb
|2. Predicate Noun
||7. Objective Complement
|3. Direct Object of a Verb
||8. Nominative Absolute
|4. Indirect Object of a Verb
||9. Direct Address
|5. Object of a Preposition
Subject of a Verb. A noun may be used as a subject of a verb.
The birds flew away.
The man jumped off the bridge.
Here comes the train.
The subject names the person or thing that is the “doer” of the verbal action. In some sentences the subject follows the verb, as in the last example above.
Predicate Noun. A noun may be used as a predicate noun.
Hitler became the dictator of Germany.
The president of Russia is Vladimir Putin.
My grandfather was a clockmaker.
The gangster turned snitch.
Normally a predicate noun follows the verb and answers the question who? or what? It also stands for the same person or thing as the subject. For example, “Hitler became what?”—Answer, the dictator. “The president of Russia is who?”—Answer, Vladimir Putin. The dictator is the same person as Hitler (subject); Vladimir Putin is the same person as the president (subject).
Direct Object of a Verb. A noun may be used as the direct object of a verb.
The carpenter built a house.
The soldier killed the enemy.
The direct object names the receiver of the action denoted by the verb; it answers the question what? or whom? and it stands for a person or thing different from the subject. For example, “The carpenter built what?”—Answer, a house. “The soldier killed whom?” Answer, the enemy. The house is not the same person or thing as the carpenter (subject); the enemy is not the same person or thing as the soldier (subject).
Both the predicate noun and the direct object of a verb answer the same question, what? or who? (whom?). They are easily distinguished, however, by their relation to the subject: the predicate noun stands for the same person or thing as the subject; the direct object stands for a different person or thing. The only exception occurs in the use of a reflexive pronoun as the object of a verb.
The direct object occasionally precedes the subject of the verb.
These shoes she bought in Paris.
Indirect Object of a Verb. A Noun may be used as the Indirect Object of a Verb.
The man gave his wife a gift.
Mary bought her grandmother a Christmas card.
The indirect object tells to whom or to what, for whom or for what something is done. In the first sentence above, the direct object gift tells what the man gave, and the indirect object wife tells to whom he gave it; in the second sentence, the direct object Christmas card tells what Mary bought, and the indirect object grandmother tells for whom she bought it.
A phrase beginning with the preposition to or for can be used in place of an indirect object. Thus, the first sentence would become “The man gave a gift to his wife”; the second sentence would become “Mary bought a Christmas card for her grandmother.” With an indirect object, the to or for is never expressed in the sentence; when expressed, the noun is an object of a preposition and not an indirect object.
Also included in the class of indirect objects are certain nouns that are equivalent to of whom when used after the verb ask. Thus, the sentence, “The teacher asked the student a question,” is equivalent to “The teacher asked a question of the student.” In this instance the idea of to is also present because asking something of a person is the syntactic equivalent of addressing one’s self to him or her.
Object of a Preposition. A noun may be used as an Object of a Preposition.
The barista served the coffee in a timely manner.
King Lear and his fool walked across the heath.
The plane arrived from New York.
Here manner, heath, and New York are the objects of the prepositions in, across, and from, respectively. (Prepositions are words like to, from, under, through, during, between, above, by, over, before, etc.)
The object of the preposition answers the question what? or whom? Thus, “He swam across the lake.” Across what?—Answer, the lake.
In Apposition. A noun may be used in Apposition with another noun.
My brother, the taxi driver, has his own blog.
I heard my neighbor’s dog, Carson, barking.
We visited Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy.
A noun in apposition stands for the same person or thing as some other noun: in other words, it is another name for the same person or thing. With two nouns in this sort of combination, the one that follows the first is said to be in apposition with the first, not the first with the second.
Note. A predicate noun and a noun in apposition with the subject of the sentence both stand for the same person or thing as the subject. What distinguishes them is that the predicate noun is connected to the subject by a verb.
My neighbor is a professor (predicate noun).
My neighbor, the professor, arrived at the party (apposition).
A noun in apposition may be separated from its related noun by several words if the relation between the two nouns is clear.
A lone man walked across the desert, a solitary figure in the scorching landscape.
24. Objective Complement. A noun may be used as an Objective Complement.
Americans elected Ronald Reagan president.
They made my uncle supervisor.
The objective complement is added to the direct object in order to complete the meaning expressed by the verb (“complement” is something that completes). Thus, in the second example, they didn’t make my uncle; they made my uncle supervisor. A simple test for an objective complement is to insert to be between the direct object and the noun that follows: for example, “They made my uncle to be supervisor.” If to be can be inserted in this position without changing the meaning of the sentence, then the second noun is an objective complement.
The objective complement is commonly used with verbs expressing the idea of choosing, making, electing, appointing, finding, and considering.
Concert-goers considered Mozart a prodigy.
The police found the man a raving lunatic.
Nominative Absolute. A noun may be used with a Participle to form what’s known as a Nominative Absolute construction.
The curtain rising, the audience anticipated the start of the play.
The book being short, I read it in two hours.
Her eyes rolling upwards, the girl made no effort to hide her disgust.
The nominative absolute construction consists of a noun followed by a participle. For now it is sufficient to say that a participle is a verb-form ending in -ing, such as rising, being, and rolling—although we will have to modify this definition to include past tense forms.
When such a construction is placed at the beginning of the sentence, it must be carefully distinguished from a noun used as the subject of the verb.
For example, in the sentence, “The soldiers needing backup, helicopters soon arrived,” soldiers is in the nominative absolute construction with the participle needing, and helicopters is the subject of the verb arrived. On the other hand, in “The soldiers, needing backup, radioed command for helicopters,” soldiers is not in a nominative absolute construction: it is the subject of the sentence (subject of the verb radioed).
Note. The word absolute, as a grammatical concept, means “free” or “unconstrained.” The noun in a nominative absolute construction is “free” from the traditional uses of a noun in a sentence, such as subjects or objects.
Direct Address. A noun may be used in Direct Address.
David, I received your snail mail yesterday.
My illness, dear friend, is worse than imagined.
Sandy, come here.
Students, listen up.
Here David, friend, Sandy, and students are the names or words by which the persons are addressed. These nouns do not function as the subjects of the verbs. The subject in the first sentence is I; in the second, illness; in the third and fourth, you understood (the subject is usually omitted in a direct command because it is always you). With reference to the third example, compare “Sandy comes here every day,” in which Sandy is the subject.
Note. A word used in direct address is set off from the rest of the sentence by a comma or commas.
Any word having one of these nine functions in a sentence may be used as a noun or noun-equivalent in the sentence.
Run is a verb.
He mispronounced superfluous.
The poor pay more.
In the first sentence, run, which is normally a verb, is a noun-equivalent because it is the subject of the verb is. In the second sentence, superfluous is a noun-equivalent because it is the object of the verb mispronounced. In the third sentence, poor is a noun-equivalent because it is the subject of the verb pay.
Nouns Used as Other Parts of Speech. Some words that are usually nouns may be used:
(1) As Adverbs (adverb-equivalents), to denote time, place, measure, etc.
We’re going on vacation tomorrow.
I went home.
She ran ten kilometers.
These words are regularly used as nouns since they are the names of things; but in the above sentences they are used as adverbs. Any word that tells when, where, how, how much, or how far is an adverb.
(2) As Adjectives (adjective-equivalents).
This is my brother’s camera.
The football game was Sunday night.
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