Tonight I was helping Elvis with his homework.  He was doing this language worksheet where he had to find the noun in the sentence.  At the top of the worksheet, it explains that a noun is a person, place or thing, and it gives examples of each.  I thought Elvis might have a hard time with this concept, but it proved to be concrete enough for him.  He was getting the noun in each sentence without any help at all.  Then he came to this sentence:

Now let’s go sit outside.

Gentle readers, can you find the noun in that sentence?

[cue Jeopardy music…get about halfway through and press fast-forward because I can’t wait to tell you the answer]

The correct answer is no, you cannot find the noun in that sentence because there is no noun in that sentence.  There is a pronoun–sort of–“let’s” being a contraction of “let us,” and “us” being a pronoun (half of which, in this case, is hiding behind a freaking apostrophe, if I hadn’t made that clear).  The subject of the sentence is you-understood, but that does not actually appear in the sentence, so it would be ridiculous to ask an eight-year-old autistic child to find it, and anyway, it is also a pronoun (in addition to being completely invisible).

I’m assuming that the word they’re expecting you to think is the noun is “outside”–because I can’t imagine that it’s supposed to be “now” or “go” or “sit,” and it’s true that “outside” can be used as a noun in a sentence.  It just isn’t a noun in this sentence.  It is an adverb, modifying the verb sit.  I will spare you a sentence diagram for the time being because it’s late and I still have to do the dishes–but I’m tempted, gentle readers!  I am sorely tempted!

As I said, “outside” can be a noun–usually when it’s used as the object of a preposition, e.g. “He was on the outside, looking in.”  It would be tricky to make it the object of a verb, which apparently it’s supposed to be in this sentence.  You can’t really sit the outside, though, you see?  It doesn’t make any sense.  I suppose you could say, “Outside is a great place to be,” and call “outside” a noun in that sentence–if you were trying to be cute–but that’s an ambiguous sentence in any case, as far as its meaning goes, so it would still be a terrible example of how to use “outside” as a noun, especially when you’re teaching the noun concept to autistic primary grade children.

Anyway.  [Deep sigh]  As it happened, Elvis did pick “outside” as the noun in the sentence, and it took every…ounce. of. self…control…to say [cleansing breath], very quietly, “Yes.  That’s…fine.”  When what I really wanted to say was, “No!  It’s not fine!  It’s a good guess, but it’s not a noun!  Not in this sentence!  The people who made this worksheet were not paying attention to what they were doing!  They are teaching you lies–LIES!”  But I didn’t.  I compromised my intellectual integrity for the sake of getting my child in bed before nine o’clock.  (It still didn’t happen, but even getting him to bed at 9:30, it was totally worth it.)

There.  Now that I have that off my chest, I feel much better.  Bonne nuit, mes amis.  I will see you in the morning.

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