What Is a Common Noun? Types, Explanation, and Examples

Updated September 27, 2022
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Girl is a common noun, but Annabelle isn’t. Car is a common noun, but Mercedes isn’t. These may sound like riddles, but they’re actually grammar rules (though grammar can sound like a riddle from time to time). From girls to cars to the receipts in your wallet, common nouns are everywhere in your world.

What Is a Common Noun?

A noun is a person, place, thing, or idea. Common nouns are general people, places, things, and ideas — in other words, nouns without names. Unlike proper nouns, which name specific nouns, common nouns aren’t capitalized (unless they’re at the beginning of a sentence).

You’ll find a common noun (or multiple common nouns) in most sentences.

  • The chickens lay eggs every morning
  • Those construction workers lost their tools.
  • Friendship means so much to kids.
  • What movie did the boys watch?
  • The hamster squeaked with frustration.

Examples of Common Nouns Chart

You can find common nouns in all of the main noun categories (person, place, thing, idea) with a simple printable reference chart. 

chart with lists of common noun examples by type (person, place, thing, or idea)

What Are Common Nouns Printable 22

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Examples of Common Countable Nouns

Countable nouns are nouns you can count (hence the name). They can be both singular and plural, since you can have one, two, ten, five thousand, or any number in between. Examples of common nouns that are countable include:

  • cats
  • mile
  • kisses
  • house
  • pencils
  • meal
  • plants
  • cloud
  • chairs
  • table

Singular countable nouns follow determiners (such as a, an, the, that, this, one, our, my, and which)

  • The dolphin is friendly.
  • My car is red.
  • I bought this dress on sale.
  • How many characters are in the story?

Examples of Common Uncountable Nouns

Uncountable nouns, also called non-countable or mass nouns, are singular nouns. They describe concepts, substances, or other items that we can’t count and never take a plural form.

Uncountable nouns are almost always common nouns. Note that you may be able to measure some uncountable nouns (such as water, air, or snow), but you can’t count them (there’s no such noun as snows or airs). Examples of uncountable nouns include:

  • air
  • grass
  • hair
  • rain
  • rice
  • sleep
  • snow
  • sunshine
  • water
  • wind

You can use certain quantifiers or determiners with uncountable nouns, such as a lot, any, some, and too much.

  • There is too much furniture in here.
  • A little generosity goes a long way.
  • Do you have any sugar?
  • This recipe requires some yeast.

Examples of Common Collective Nouns

Collective nouns represent a group of nouns. The singular form refers to one unit or group, and the plural form refers to more than one unit or group. Examples include:

  • class
  • department
  • family
  • herd
  • jury
  • players
  • residents
  • society
  • squad
  • team

You're not trying to count the individual number of units with these nouns. Rather, it's clear an entire group is being addressed as a collective whole.

  • Let's take the faculty on a retreat.
  • We saw the dance group out at the restaurant.
  • Is the entire school here?
  • The community gathered for the town meeting.

Examples of Common Concrete Nouns

Concrete nouns represent something physical that you can experience through the senses. Examples of common concrete nouns include:

  • cheese
  • dog
  • computer
  • teacher
  • feet
  • flower
  • guitar
  • pasta
  • salt

These nouns can be tasted, touched, seen, heard, or smelled. They're definitive, specific entities, as opposed to things we can't actually touch, like air or love.

  • I hope we have fish for dinner tonight.
  • She bought a new fountain pen.
  • This book is fantastic.
  • I love pizza.

Examples of Common Abstract Nouns

Abstract nouns are ideas and concepts that you can’t see, touch, hear, smell, or taste. Examples of abstract common nouns include:

  • culture
  • deceit
  • hatred
  • intelligence
  • love
  • maturity
  • outrage
  • peace
  • satisfaction
  • sympathy

You use abstract nouns the same way you use other nouns in a sentence.

  • He's filled with curiosity.
  • Athens is the birthplace of democracy.
  • She has no trust in him.
  • His disappointment was obvious.

Do You Capitalize Common Nouns After Proper Adjectives?

Sometimes you’ll see a common noun after a proper adjective, such as food in the term Japanese food. Proper adjectives are always capitalized because they come from proper nouns — but what do you do with the common nouns that follow them?

It depends on the noun phrase (the combination of the proper adjective and common noun). If the common noun is part of a name, it should be capitalized.

  • We studied the Middle Ages in class. (ages is a common noun, but Middle Ages is a name for a specific time period)
  • What are you doing for Valentine’s Day? (day is a common noun, but Valentine’s Day is a name for a specific day)
  • I’ve never visited the Grand Canyon. (canyon is a common noun, but Grand Canyon is the name of a specific landmark)

However, if the proper adjective is only describing the common noun, you don’t capitalize the common noun.

  • Oliver lives near a Catholic church. (Catholic describes the common noun church)
  • My mother married a charming German man last year. (German describes the common noun man)
  • Tate needs to write an essay for English class. (English describes the common noun class)