Since sentence punctuation, especially the comma, is botched so regularly by people of all educational levels, we need to deal with it right away to cause your boss/instructor to take notice of you as an expert communicator. Today we'll conquer two other crucial parts of speech so that in the next column we can put them together with the verbs from last time and solve the riddles of sentence formation: particularly where to put all those nasty punctuation marks.



Quite simply, a noun is the name of a person, place, thing, or idea.


Person: cowboy, astronaut, newspaper reporter, beautician, physical therapist

Person (proper noun, a person named specifically): Billy the Kid, Neil Armstrong, Lois Lane, Pam Fry, Marcy Davis

Place: barn, ice rink, dinosaur museum, taco stand, gas station, mall, gymnasium

Thing: peach, grizzly bear, airplane, railroad tie, boulder, corsage, pin cushion, miter saw, compost

Idea: truth, beauty, love, equality, honor

Something to consider for next time: the subject of a sentence is generally the noun that comes in front of the verb. This concept is so important that you might try repeating it over and over every time you brush your teeth: the subject is the noun in front of the verb.



Adjectives are words that sit in front of nouns to make the nouns more specific or colorful. Normally an adjective can't stand alone but needs the name of something (noun) after it. In the examples below, the adjective will be given in capitals.


TICKLISH cowboy, WEIGHTLESS astronaut, ENERGETIC newspaper reporter, TALKATIVE beautician, SKILLFUL physical therapist, GOOD apple

Notice how you can put "a" or "an" in front of nouns? These can stand alone. Notice how you can't put those little words in front of adjectives: those can't stand alone.


a ticklish, a weightless, an energetic, a talkative, a skillful, a good (Weird, aren't they?)



Here are a few sentences to secretly test how successfully you've inserted this factoid. Answers and encouragement appear at (When you get there, click on "Factoidinsertionemia").

Write "noun" or "adjective" after the following words:

1. balloon

2. toothache

3. Dodger Stadium

4. juicy

5. muddy

6. juice

7. mud

8. Barbie

9. beautiful

10. light

11. lighted

12. empty

13. friendly

14. blockbuster


Factoid Answers

1. balloon . . . noun

2. toothache . . . noun

3. Dodger Stadium . . . noun

4. juicy . . . adjective (JUICY pear)

5. muddy . . . adjective (MUDDY paws)

6. juice . . . noun

7. mud . . . noun

8. Barbie . . . proper noun

9. beautiful . . . adjective (BEAUTIFUL sunrise)

10. light . . . noun

11. lighted . . . adjective (LIGHTED windows)

12. empty . . . adjective (EMPTY nest syndrome)

13. friendly . . . adjective (FRIENDLY used car salesman)

14. blockbuster . . . noun: The movie was a blockbuster. ALSO adjective: It was a blockbuster movie


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Kathy Alba, Ph.D. is author of Speaking and Writing Well: Empowering Yourself with "Proper" English, Your Dynamite Guide to Conquering the World.