Common Nouns

If you’re a teacher, tutor, student or parent trying to catch up on a few grammar rules, the following information on common nouns is a great place to start!  Let’s begin with the basics.

What are Common Nouns?

While there are many different types of nouns, common nouns are the least complex.  They are simply words that name people, places, things, or ideas.  But they are not the actual NAMES of people, place or things.  In other words, the word “girl” is a common noun, but the word “Ashley” is a proper noun because it’s the specific name of the girl. By the same token “street “ is a common noun, but “Main Street” is a proper noun as it calls a specific street by name.

The word “Colorado” is a proper noun because it names a particular state.  The word “state” is a common noun because it could refer to any state in America.

Examples of Common Nouns

Finding examples of common nouns is as simple as opening you eyes!  What is the first thing you see when you wake up each morning?  Your alarm clock?  The word clock is a common noun because it names, or identifies, a thing.

What do you see when you walk out your front door each morning?  A car, a tree, the sky, your neighbor, a bus, a house, a store?  All are common nouns because they name a thing, place, or person:

  • People: mother, father, baby, child, toddler, teenager, grandmother, student, teacher, minister, businessperson, salesclerk, woman, man
  • Animals: lion, tiger, bear, dog, cat, alligator, cricket, bird, wolf
  • Things: table, truck, book, pencil, iPad, computer, coat, boots,
  • Places: city, state, country, continent, coffee shop, restaurant, park, zoo
  • Ideas: envy, love, hate, respect, patriotism, pride

Capitalizing Common Nouns

Capitalization rules can get confusing sometimes but when it comes to capitalizing common nouns the rules are very simple.  Don’t do it…unless the common noun is the first word in a sentence or part of a title.   For example…

State laws are passed by the legislature.
Each state may have varying laws.

Possessive Common Nouns

Possessive nouns show ownership or relation to something else. To make a singular common noun possessive, simply add an apostrophe and the letter “s.”

The baby’s cries woke the exhausted new parents.
The toddler’s face was covered in birthday cake.
The dog’s bark was worse than his bite.
The old car’s exhaust pipe emitted dusty black smoke.

To make the possessive form of a singular common noun that ends in “s” add an apostrophe and “s,” as in these examples:

The walrus’s bucket was missing.
The bus’s yellow paint was beginning to rust.

For a plural common noun that doesn’t end in “s” simply follow the rules of singular common noun that doesn’t end in “s” and add an apostrophe and “s.”

The men’s basketball team is headed for the championship tournament.
The children’s playroom floor was covered with toys.

If a plural common noun does end in “s” just add an apostrophe to make the possessive form.

The movie was interrupted by the babies’ crying in the back row.
The nest of rattlesnakes’s hissings warned the hiker to stay away

Now that you’ve brushed on the basics, recognizing and using common nouns is really pretty easy, don’t you agree?