What Are Common Nouns? (with Examples)

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What Are Common Nouns? (with Examples)

Everything we can see or discuss is represented by a word that names it. That word is called a noun.

A common noun is the word for something (e.g., boy, cat, lake, bridge). It is different from a proper noun, which is the name we give to something (e.g., Peter, Lucky, Lake Superior, The London Bridge).

All nouns can be categorized into one of two groups: common nouns and proper nouns.

This page is about common nouns, but it is worth learning about common nouns and proper nouns at the same time.

A More Formal Definition of Common Noun

A common noun is used for a class of person, place, or thing. (A proper noun is used for a specific person, place, or thing.)

Examples of Common Nouns and Proper Nouns

Here are some examples of common nouns and proper nouns:

Common NounProper Noun
carFord Focus
lakeLake Baikal
materialHarris Tweed
oceanThe Atlantic Ocean
restaurantBurger King
soldierCorporal Jones
teaEarl Grey

Common Nouns Do Not Get Capital Letters

Unless it starts a sentence or is part of a proper noun, a common noun is not written with a capital letter. Look the following examples (common nouns shaded):
  • That boy wants to play with Simon.
  • (Simon is a proper noun. It's the name of a specific boy. The word boy is a common noun.)
  • I love looking at old bridges. Can we visit Tower Bridge?
  • (Tower Bridge is a proper noun. It's the name of a specific bridge. The word bridge is a common noun.)
  • Sparks Meadow Mineral Water is the best-tasting still water.
  • (Sparks Meadow Mineral Water is a proper noun. It's the name of some specific water. The word water is a common noun.)
Read more about capital letters with proper and common nouns.

Categories of Common Nouns

Every common noun can be categorized as at least one of following types of common noun:
  • An Abstract Noun. Abstract nouns are things you cannot see or touch (e.g., hate, happiness, determination).
  • A Collective Noun. Collective nouns describe groups (e.g., jury, team, school).
  • A Compound Noun. Compound nouns are nouns made up of more than one word (e.g., paperclip, court-martial, sister-in-law).
  • A Concrete Noun. Concrete nouns are things you can see or touch (e.g., table, cup, rain).
  • A Countable Noun. Countable nouns are ones with a singular and plural form. They are things you can count. (e.g., pen (pens), wall (walls), animal (animals)).
  • A Non-countable Noun (mass nouns). Non-countable nouns are things you cannot count (e.g., air, music, oxygen).
  • A Gender-specific Noun. Gender-specific nouns are things which are definitely male or female (e.g., vixen, waitress, actress).
  • A Verbal Noun (gerund). Verbal nouns represent actions (e.g., writing, dancing, thinking).
Read more about the different types of nouns.