Common Noun

Understanding Common Nouns to Use Them in Your Writings

A common noun is the naming word that names all the members of a class of objects—that is, the name is common to all the members of the class: as, country, state, man, bank, lake.

Examples of Common Nouns
personman, woman, teacher, etc.
placemarket, school, state, etc.
stateMemphis, New York, St. Louis
countryPhillipian, China, Denmark etc.
qualityresilience, passion, bravery, etc.

Contrary to common noun, is a proper nounOpens in new window, which names a specific person, place, or thing.

Common nouns do not usually begin with a capital letter and are usually preceded by an indefinite article Opens in new window such as a or the.

Difference Between Common Nouns and Proper Nouns

While proper noun refers to specific person, place or thing, common noun refers to a general, non-specific class of person, place, or thing, i.e., speaking of a car, could mean any particular kind of car, in the same way, a citizen could mean any person of a given country.

Common NounProper Noun
a carToyota sedan
our chiefChief Douglas Sanders
the fire departmentSanta Clara County Fire Department
the schoolSt. Mary's Memorial School, Maryland
an ambulanceAmerican Medical Response

Common Nouns Used as Part of Proper Nouns

Common nouns may be used as part of proper nouns to name specific places or institutions. When used in this context, the common noun usually begins with a capital letter:

Common NounProper Noun
gas stationTotal Filling Station
road1004 Road
reservoirLexington Reservoir
countySanta Clara County

Grammarians are quick to disagree whether to capitalize the common nouns or not to capitalize them when referring to plurals.

Some believes that we should capitalize the common noun; others say we shouldn’t. Yet there are some who say the common nouns should be capitalize in certain situations only. However, the advice is, use the style that works for you and be consistent with it.

Consider the following constructions:
  • Oando and Monta Vista Stations (or stations)
  • Santa Clara and Santa Cruz Counties (or counties)
  • First and Second Streets (or streets)

However, there are many other instances where the common noun does not begin with a capital letter when used with a proper noun.

An authoritative dictionary can often help you determine the proper capitalization:

  • The arsonist used a Molotov cocktail to start the fire.
  • He claims the arresting officer did not read him the Miranda rights when he was taken into custody.
  • She dislodged the object by using the Heimlich maneuver.