Nouns/Noun Phrases and Skill Focus: How to study a Text

English Language SS3 First Term

Week 2


Structure: Revision of Nouns and Noun Phrases

Skill Focus: How to study a Text

Spoken English: Revision /ə/ and /i/

A. Structure: Revision of Nouns and Noun Phrases

a. Nouns: Singular and Plural

More words belong to the noun class than to any other class. This is because they are the names of people or things in our world.

1. Nouns are either Proper (the names of particular people or things) or Common (the general names of people or things). In the following list of nouns, which belong to each group?

James, mind, leaves, Okri, engine, Benue

Proper nouns are easy to identify because they begin with a capital letter.

2. Nouns have different Singular and Plural forms. Usually, -s or -es is added for the plural, but there are some irregular forms. In the following exercise, fill the gaps by giving the plural  form of the nouns in brackets:

a. The _____ (child) carried their ____ (plate) to the _____ (table)

b. ____ (Woman) generally have smaller  ____ (foot) than ____ (man)

c. ____ (Goose) resemble ____ (duck) in appearance, but are bigger

d. Many _____ (criterion) can be used to define success in life

3. Some nouns are plural only e.g. trousers, scissors, barracks, cattle. Some have the same form for both singular and plural, e.g. species, series. Quarter usually means ‘one-fourth’, but quarter means ‘living area’. People can be singular or plural meaning ‘ethnic group’, ‘nation’, but in the plural it can also mean ‘persons’. Funds just means ‘money’, but fund means ‘money set aside for a special purpose’.

Use one of the nouns mentioned in the paragraph you have just read to fill in the gaps in sentences 1-6 opposite:

i. My father bought me a new pair of _____

ii. She made a _____ of attempts to reach her husband

iii. The State Government has announced that it has no _____ left

iv. A Fulani man always knows the the exact number of  _____ he has

v.  The _____ of the Middle Belt have made much progress in recent

vi. Alsatians are a ____ of dogs

b. Nouns: Countable and Uncountable

1. Common nouns are either Countable or Uncountable. Can you remember the rules for using each type? (Countable, but not uncountable nouns, (i) can be used in the plural as well as the singular, (ii) can be preceded  by the indefinite article a(n). In the following list of common nouns, which ones are examples of which type?

road, wood, village, question, cupboard, electricity, newspaper, fuel, windscreen, box, blame, information, appointment.

2. Uncountable nouns often name a substance or abstract quality which cannot easily be separated into different parts. If we want to speak of a part of it, we need to use a Unit word (which is itself countable), followed by of, followed by the uncountable noun.  For example: a cup of water, ten litres of kerosene, a bit of luck, a flash of lightning. Note that cigarette is countable, not uncountable, so it is wrong to say He was smoking a stick of cigarette; just say He was smoking a cigarette.


Certain nouns are sometimes countable, sometimes uncountable; and there is some difference in meaning. For example, man when uncountable means human beings in general; when countable it means the male of the human species.

Written in capital letters below are words that are sometimes countable, sometimes uncountable. You will also see two sentences.

Fill the blank in each by giving the correct form of the word in capitals, adding when a necessary.



He took ____ and used it to wedge the gate.

Answer: a stone

1. MAN:

a) ____ was described by a famous philosopher as a political animal.

b) Be _____ and face up to your responsibilities!

2. FIRE:

a) I am going to light ____

b) We do not usually insure our houses against ____


a) A dumb person is one who lacks the faculty of _____

b) The candidate delivered _____ which met with  loud applause.

4. FISH:

a) He caught  _____, then threw it back into the water

b) In areas far from the coast, ____ is more expensive than meat

5. WORK:

a) Can one buy the ____ of Soyinka in one volume?

b) He doesn’t like ____; he’s very lazy.

c. Determiners, Adjectives and the Noun Phrase

Adjectives come before nouns and describe them, e.g. old people, fine clothes.

Determiners are little words that come before noun or an adjective preceding the noun, such as a, the, some, much, many, (a) few, (a) little, all, one, two, my, your. Some of them are called ‘quantifiers’ because they tell us the quantity or amount of the noun, e.g. much money. Determiners are like adjectives in some ways, but they do not describe the noun.

A noun phrase may thus have these elements:

determiner + adjective + noun

The adjective element may actually be more than one adjective, e.g. a large igneous rock; and the adjective may be qualified by an intensifier, e.g. a very large igneous rock

B. Skill Focus: How to Study a Text

The main things to remember and put into practice are

1. Surveying a text

Surveying a text is the necessary first stage before studying it. It means moving your eyes quickly over:

  • the title
  • headings, illustrations and captions to illustrations (if any)
  • questions on the text (if any) and perhaps also:

           – the first paragraph (or two, if the paragraphs are short)

           – the last paragraph (or two)

Surveying includes making a list of key questions that you would like answered

2. Studying a text

The stages of studying described in SS2 can be summarised as follows:

S – The Survey stage: See above

Q – The Quick read: This is to get a clearer view. If necessary, omit parts that seem difficult and come back to them later.

S – The Slow read: This is the study stage proper; but many students make the mistake of starting with it, or of omitting all the others! Make notes either during this stage or after it, but not before you have done your survey and quick read.

C – Check: Did the notes answer your questions? If not, do another quick read.

The whole process can be summarised as ‘SQSC’. Get into the habit of using SQSC  on any and every type of text.

C. Spoken English: Revision /ə/ and /i/

A vital point about UNstressed syllables (and here we stress ‘un’- for emphasis!) is that the vowel in such a syllable is usually (not always) /ə/ or /i/.

Banana – /bə’na:nə/

In other words, the second syllable is stressed and it has the full vowel /a:/. The first and third syllables are not stressed and they have the vowel /ə/. We have learned that in Book 2, /ə/  is the most common vowel in English. We find it in prefixes such as a-, con- and sub-, and suffixes such as -er, -or, -ion, -al, -ent, -ant, -ern, -ous and -us. If you are still not sure about its pronunciation, try to make sure that when you pronounce it, your mouth is not wide open.

Very common in unstressed syllables also is /i/. It is found in prefixes de-, be-, re-, in-, and ex-, and in suffixes -es, -ed, -ing, -y, -ly, -et and -age.

Say the following:

houses wanted falling happy ticket language

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