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Substantive Noun

Term Definition
Substantive Noun

A substantive noun pertains to substantives and is used in a sentence like a noun: including some adjectives and verbs.

Introductory information

Essentially, the substantive noun refers to any part of speech, including an adjective or a verb, that serves the function of a noun within a given sentence. 

The substantive noun was once defined by the fact that it defines an object by internal essence, rather than by accidental property. However, this distinction is somewhat obsolete by now.  

Correct and incorrect examples of substantive nouns

Here is an example of the substantive noun being used correctly within the context of a sentence. 

"On his walk home from his job, the man decided to stop by at the regular and order a hearty Southern dinner."

In this sentence, the term "regular" is an adjective being used as a substantive noun. 

Now, here is an example of the incorrect usage of the substantive. 

"Running away from home and thinking about new opportunities to make money in a new situation."

The problem here is that there is no substantive noun serving as the subject of the sentence. 

In case you are still a little confused about the substantive noun, here are a couple guidelines (like the ones the professional essay writers at Ultius use) you can follow in order to make sure you're using it correctly. 

  1. In modern usage, the substantive noun has become pretty much synonymous with the very term noun itself. This is because archaic distinctions between different kinds of nouns have somewhat fallen by the wayside in this regard. 
  2. Words which serve the function of nouns are also sometimes classified as a substantive noun. Essentially, the substantive noun represents a clear object that can be grasped by thought. This includes all nouns and some other parts of speech as well, depending on the usage. 

History of substantive nouns

Historically, from the Middle Ages onward, the substantive noun was contrasted against the adjectival noun. The idea was that whereas the substantive noun described an object in terms of its unchanging essence, an adjectival noun described the object in terms of its changeable properties.

This is related to the fact that the very term "substantive" is meant to signifying being; so, the substantive noun was meant to signify the "being" of specific objects. This could be contrasted with adjectival nouns, which only described an object at a specific point in time and not in terms of its enduring being. 

In this context, it is easy to understand why the substantive noun has become far less important or relevant in modern times. The emphasis on substance itself would seem to derive from a specific tradition of philosophy and theology, deriving primarily from Aristotle and Aquinas, two of the most recognized philosophy writers.

This was absolutely fundamental to the worldview of the Middle Ages, to the point that it was reflected even in grammatical categories such as the substantive noun. In modern times, this philosophical system has clearly become much less relevant with respect to informing the worldviews of most people. The substantive noun, then, has likewise become somewhat irrelevant as a concept.

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Synonyms: substantive-noun

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