Nouns As Different Roles in a Sentence
Nouns can play different roles in different sentences. They can play the role of the subject of a sentence, they can take a possessive form, or they can play the role of an object in a sentence. Let’s look at those three different examples through example sentences written up here on the board.
Take a look at this first sentence: “John has wisdom.” What’s the subject in this sentence? The subject is “John” and the verb is “has”. Right here, “John” is the subject of the sentence. “John” is also a noun, because a noun names a person, place, or thing. “John” is obviously a person, and this is actually what we would call a proper noun, because it names a specific person. Right here, “John” is a noun and is playing the role of a subject. You can see here how a noun can play the role of a subject.
Look at this next sentence: “John’s wisdom can be helpful.” What’s the subject here? You may be tempted to say “John’s”, but the subject is actually “wisdom”. If the subject is “wisdom”, then what role is “John’s” playing? “John’s” is the possessive form of “John”. It’s describing the wisdom in saying that the wisdom belongs to John, because it’s John’s wisdom. Here, you see “John’s” playing a possessive role in the sentence.
Look at this third sentence: “The company hired John.” The subject of this sentence is “company” and the verb is “hired”. What role is “John” playing in this sentence? It’s not the subject and it’s not in possessive form, so what role is it playing? We would call “John” here the object of the sentence. The object is what the subject of the sentence is acting on. The company hired someone. Who did the company hire? The company hired John. The company is acting upon John. That’s how you find the object of a sentence.
You notice in this first sentence and in this third sentence that “John” is in the same form (J-O-H-N). When it plays the role of a possessive, then “John” has an “‘s” to it. When a noun is playing the role of a subject and when a noun is playing the role of an object, it’s going to look the same. When it’s in possessive form, you’re going to have to change the word a little bit. Generally, you can just add “‘s”, but there are some more complex rules when it comes to making some nouns possessive.
The important thing to remember, the thing you need to take away from this session, is that nouns can play three different roles. They can be the subject of a sentence, they can be in possessive form, or they can be the object of a sentence.