What are Exact Nouns? - Definition & Examples

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Instructor: Summer Stewart

Summer has taught creative writing and sciences at the college level. She holds an MFA in Creative writing and a B.A.S. in English and Nutrition

Nouns are a part of speech referring to a person, place, thing, or idea. Explore the concept of exact nouns to discover how they range in specificity, their importance in writing, and examples of how to use them in a sentence. Updated: 01/12/2022

Exact Nouns

An exact noun is a noun that is specific rather than generic. For example, the words 'dog,' 'cat,' and 'bird' are common nouns that can refer to any of those creatures. On the other hand, the words 'beagle,' 'tabby,' and 'raven' are exact nouns because they refer to a specific type of those particular common nouns. Exact nouns are preferred in writing because they're more precise. In this lesson, we'll learn about exact nouns by exploring a couple of examples and talk about why they're important.

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  • 0:04 Exact Nouns
  • 0:36 Range in Specificity
  • 1:01 Example 1
  • 1:51 Example 2
  • 2:49 Importance in Writing
  • 3:18 Lesson Summary
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Range in Specificity

Exact nouns range in specificity, as you can see in the following examples. An exact noun can be a more specific version of a common noun, or it can be a proper noun. However, it's important to know that while all proper nouns can be replaced by common nouns, not all common nouns have a proper noun available. In that case, there's usually a more specific noun available for use.

Example 1

Let's take a look at a passage with common nouns:

The girls went to the place to buy some stuff. After they got the stuff, they walked down the street and ate some food at a restaurant. Once they were done eating, they went to play a game.

Now let's see how this same passage reads with exact nouns:

The girls went to the toy store to buy some sidewalk chalk. After they bought the chalk, they walked down First Avenue and ate some nachos at Taco Bell. Once they were done eating, they went to play hopscotch.

Do you see how much better the passage with the exact nouns is in comparison to the preceding passage? The second passage paints a picture for the reader, showing us where the girls went, what they bought, what they ate, and what game they played. By using exact nouns, a sense of purpose surfaces from the passage.

Example 2

Let's look at another example with common nouns:

Two boys drove to the city to meet with friends. They met them in front of a store. Afterwards, they walked to the park and looked at the sights. In the evening, they went to dinner at a restaurant and ate some food. Once they left the restaurant, they spent the night at a hotel.

Now let's see how this same passage reads with exact nouns:

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