An Exercise in Noun Definition
[Landscape with the Fall of Icarus]
In the picture above (Pieter Bruegel the Elder's Landscape with the Fall of Icarus [c. 1558; Oil on canvas, mounted on wood, 73.5 x 112 cm; Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels]), name eight things that you can see or could touch if you could physically enter the painting — concrete nouns. For the purposes of this exercise, name only singular items in this first text-area (for example, you can't use "cloud" because there is more than one cloud). When you've finished your list, click on "Grammar's List" to see our list of singular concrete nouns. If scrolling up and down to look at the painting becomes a bother, it might be easier to write your list on a piece of paper instead of using the text-areas provided. Instead, you can click
HERE to see the painting in a separate window (which you can then move off to one side of your desktop). Also, you can click on the painting above for a larger version of the same thing, but we don't recommend that for slow connections.

Now name eight concrete nouns that exist in the plural in this painting. Again, when you're finished, you can compare your list to our own.

How many of the plural nouns were made plural simply by adding -s or -es to the end of the noun? Did you name any that were made plural in other ways? Did you list any nouns that didn't change form (from the singular) but were nonetheless plural (hint: those white wooly things)? Did you name any plurals that have no singular form at all?

Now, stretching your imagination a bit, name four things that you can't really see or touch but that are in the painting. These will be non-count nouns and some of them will probably be abstract nouns.

Are there any collective nouns in this painting? Try to come up with one and write it here before clicking on Grammar's List.

Now if you've really been paying attention, there is one more kind of noun you can come up with. You should be able to list one proper noun. Hint: we don't know the plowman's name.


Guide to Grammar and Writing