Common Nouns Explained with Examples

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  2. Common Nouns

What Is a Common Noun?

A common noun is a general name for a person, place, or thing in a class or group, and it is not capitalized unless it begins a sentence.

Examples:

boy
teacher
woman

When Do We Use a Common Noun and Proper Noun?

Use a common noun when you want to generalize and a proper noun when you want to be specific.

The table helps distinguish between the common and proper nouns.

Common noun
Proper noun
city
New York
cat
Milo
mountain
Alps
country
United States of America
skyscraper
Willis Tower
doctor
Dr. Wilkins
street
Canal Street
planet
Mars

Did you notice the general and specific usages of nouns?

The word "city" could mean any city in general, while "New York" is the name of a specific city. Also remember a proper noun always begins with a capital letter, while a common noun doesn't.

Here are some instances when we use common nouns:

Types
Examples
people
son, aunt, man
animals
tiger, eagle, fish
professions
teacher, lawyer, astronaut
objects
computer, star, car
abstract ideas
wisdom, beauty, courage

Click on the Circles to Spot the Six Common Nouns

kite
fast
butterfly
Jack
throw
door
burger
beautiful
candy
actor
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Making the Plural Form of a Common Noun

Plurals in English are generally formed by adding -s or -es to the singular nouns and by following the basic rules to make plurals.

Examples:

trees
flowers
birds
boxes
animals

Not all plurals are formed in this manner. Some plurals are formed by changing the spelling and not just by adding -s or -es. These are often known as irregular plurals.

Examples:

men
children
oxen

Types of Common Nouns

Since any noun that is not a proper noun is a common noun, all other types of nouns fall under common nouns.

Types
Examples
countable nouns
pen, computer
uncountable nouns
information, advice
collective nouns
flock, herd
concrete nouns
flower, steak
abstract nouns
love, beauty

Using Articles with Common Nouns

  • When common nouns are specific, we use the definite article "the".

    Example:

    The boy in the red T-shirt is my brother.

  • When they are not specific, we use one of the indefinite articles: a or an. "A" is used before consonant sounds, while "an" comes before vowel sounds.

    Examples:

    I have a cat.

    I saw an elephant.

  • With plural count nouns or non-count nouns meaning "all" or used in general, we use zero or no article.

    Examples:

    Fruit and vegetables are good for health.

    Dad wants to get more information.

Capitalizing a Common Noun

We don't generally capitalize common nouns, except in these cases.

  • when they occur at the beginning of a sentence

    Example:

    Apples are good for health.

  • when they are part of a title

    Example:

    Midsummer Night's Dream

Forming the Possessive with a Common Noun

To form possessives of common nouns, all you have to do is add an apostrophe "s" to the common noun.

Example:

I am wearing my brother's jacket.

Common Nouns Functioning as Proper Nouns

Nouns within our family such as mom, dad, aunt, etc. can be both proper or common nouns. The watchword, though, is if you can replace the words with names, they are proper nouns, or else they are common nouns.

Examples:

I asked Mom to make me a chocolate dessert.
You can use your mother's name instead of "Mom", and say "I asked Maria to make me a chocolate desert".

My mom works for a local school.
Here, you can't use your mother's name instead of "mom".


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Sample Worksheets

Reinforce your skills using our free printable worksheets on Common Nouns.