What is a Common Noun? | Definition and Examples
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Overview of Common Nouns:
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.
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.
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:
Click on the Circles to Spot the Six Common Nouns
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.
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.
Since any noun that is not a proper noun is a common noun, all other types of nouns fall under common nouns.
Using Articles with Common Nouns
When common nouns are specific, we use the definite article "the".
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.
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.
Fruit and vegetables are good for health.
Dad wants to get more information.
We don't generally capitalize common nouns, except in these cases.
when they occur at the beginning of a sentence
Apples are good for health.
when they are part of a title
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.
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.
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".
Reinforce your skills using our free printable worksheets on Common Nouns.