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A strong noun is a word that refers to a particular person, place, or thing, which is evocative and fairly specific in nature. These words typically indicate something that a reader can easily visualize and connect with, ensuring that the precise image and concept a writer wishes to designate is achieved. In contrast, weak nouns are usually more vague and subtle, allowing for confusion by a reader or indicating a less specific idea. A strong noun in other languages, such as Old English, refers to a type of noun of a particular declension, which indicates the suffix used to change its form or tense.
The function of a strong noun is much like any other type, though it serves this purpose in a more particular way. For example, the word "vehicle" is a noun that describes some type of object that can be used to transport someone from one place to another. This is not a specific or descriptive word, however, and so a strong noun may more precisely function within a sentence. Rather than "He got into his vehicle," it can be more effective to say, "He got into his sports car."
Words like "vehicle" or "dog" are often considered weak nouns, especially in creative writing in which detail is encouraged. Adjectives can easily be avoided through the use of a strong noun that helps indicate the idea that might be relayed through describing a weak noun. Rather than stating "big dog," for example, it may be more effective for a writer to use "German shepherd," which is a particular type of dog that is, in general, large.
This can also help prevent confusion in a sentence like, "Avoiding the vehicles overhead, he reached his vehicle and got in." The types of vehicles throughout the sentence are unclear and the meaning of the action is fairly confusing. It is often more effective for a writer to use a strong noun in each instance and write, "Avoiding the helicopters circling overhead, he ran to his boat and leapt aboard."
In some languages, a strong noun can indicate a particular way in which declension is handled within that language. Old English, for example, uses different types of declension, which indicates changes to a noun through a suffix such as the use of "-s" for the plural declension in modern English. Strong nouns in Old English have certain suffixes that are used to indicate plural or singular forms of different cases, such as the nominative case used as the subject of a sentence. Weak nouns use other types of declension, and this distinction is established to indicate how these nouns change to take on different forms.