The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (Page 329) has a section titled 'Nominals':

Intermediate between the noun and the NP we recognise a category of nominals:

[3] a. the old man

b. that book you were talking about

CGEL defines phrases like old man and book you were talking about as nominals. That is, nominals are defined as an NP minus any determiner.

Is there a corresponding term in traditional grammar or school grammar?

  • 4
    Beware of thinking that modern analyses (and not just the CGEL approach) can be regarded as traditional analyses with different terminology. Since the determiner / determinative had not been seen as a necessary POS in traditional grammars, how would they describe what is left after removing 'any' from the string 'any money in the bank'? Jan 24, 2020 at 12:24
  • 'the old man' is an NP, but is "that book you were talking about" an NP? It is a noun clause, if I am not wrong.
    – Ram Pillai
    Feb 3, 2020 at 5:10
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    McCawley distinguishes the old man (an NP) from old man (an N′, pronounced "N-bar"). As McCawley puts it, the N′ is part of the X-bar system, but the NP is not -- it's the grammatical equivalent of a logical argument, just as S is a grammatical equivalent of a logical proposition. Feb 4, 2020 at 4:36

1 Answer 1


Nominals are also called substantives:

In English grammar, the term nominal is a category that describes the usage of parts of speech in a sentence. Specifically, the nominal definition is a noun, noun phrase, or any word or word group that functions as a noun. It is also known as a substantive.

The term comes from the Latin, meaning "name." Nominals can be the subject of a sentence, the object of a sentence, or the predicate nominative, which follows a linking verb and explains what the subject is. Nominals are used to give more specifics than a simple noun.

  • That's not the sense in which CGEL is using it though - so maybe it suggests that there is no corresponding term in traditional / school grammar.
    – JD2000
    Jan 24, 2020 at 7:26
  • In your 'Nominals' link, there's a paragraph citing Geoffrey Leech, who says nice cup of tea in a nice cup of tea is a nominal, which is in line with CGEL's definition of nominals.
    – JK2
    Jan 25, 2020 at 4:54
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    In my experience, "substantive" is used to mean "noun" (e.g. "book" or "man" could be called "substantives"), not to mean "nominal."
    – herisson
    Feb 3, 2020 at 21:44

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