Common noun masterclass

This lesson helps us understand what a common noun is, and how and when to use it in a sentence.

What is a common noun in English?

A common noun is a name that creates a class of something or someone. It refers to a thing, person, place, or something else without making it specific. It can be singular or plural in number.

What a common noun does is that it creates a class or category where objects that share the same features become a part of the category. It does not refer to a specific object, like a proper noun.

Some common nouns in English

  • Student
  • Doctor
  • Singer
  • Phone
  • Country
  • Park
  • Man
  • Women
  • School
  • College

Let’s take the example of the noun ‘student‘. It refers to someone who studies. It does not tell us who the person is specifically. It creates a category where all the people, irrespective of their age, gender, nationality, status, caste, religion, and other things, who study directly fall into this category and will be called a student.

Let’s take another example of a noun: college. It refers to a place where we study. So, if I asked you to come to a college, would you be able to come to the college that I want you to come to?

The answer is no. You wouldn’t be able to do that because I haven’t given you a specific name of a college.

Let’s change the situation a little. Now, I want you to meet me at Miranda house college, New Delhi. Would you be able to come to the right place now? Of course, you would. I have given you a specific (proper) name of a college. No matter where you put up, you would be able to come to this place.

But college is a common noun. It does not tell us which exact college it is. All the places that qualify to be a college across the world will fall into this category and be called a college.

Common noun and proper noun
Common noun and proper noun

More examples of common nouns and proper nouns

Common nounProper noun
ManAshish Sharma
ScientistAlbert Einstein
MovieGully Boy
CricketerVirat Kohli
HotelTaj Lake Palace
HospitalIndraprastha Apollo Hospital, New Delhi
UniversityHarvard University
ParkCentral Park, New York
CompanyTata Consultancy Services
HospitalSir Ganga Ram Hospital 
LaptopApple MacBook Pro
Girl Navya Sharma
CarHyundai i20
Holy scriptureGeeta
StadiumFiroz Shah Stadium
AirportManau International Airport
SongHey Jude

Why do we use a common noun in English?

We use a common noun to refer to something or someone without making the noun specific. It is used to generalize a noun. Sometimes, the proper name of an object is not known to the speaker, therefore; it’s impossible to use a proper noun in that case.

Imagine someone took you to a place. It was a school. Because of being in a hurry, you didn’t notice the name of the school. And later, someone asked you where you went. I went to a school, you replied. You have taken a name of a place (school) by making it generic. It gives the listener/s a generic idea of what it is, but it does not tell them which exact school it is. They wouldn’t be able to know which exact school it is without you taking its specific/proper name.

The proper name of a school could be DAV Public School or Great Oak Secondary School.

Many times, we, as a speaker, don’t want to refer to a specific thing/person. We refer to names of people and things using a generic name that creates a category/class.

Study the examples provided below.

  • I want to buy a car. I really need it now.

The speaker is referring to something using a name: car. It creates a class. But it does not tell us which exact object (car) the speaker is referring to. If I had a clear idea in terms of the car I want to buy, I would say: I want to buy Audi A4, a specific/proper name of a car.

  • Let’s meet at a cafe at 11 am tomorrow.

The speaker hasn’t decided on the exact cafe they would want to meet the person at. It gives a generic definition of a place. The noun cafe is a common noun and creates a class that refers to a place that serves beverages like tea, coffee, and cold drinks and has a small menu for food.

  • My mother was watching a movie when I got home.

Movie is a common noun here. It creates a class. It is a name given to something. Since the speaker doesn’t know the exact name of the movie, they have used a common noun and given the audience a hint of what it was, not making it specific though.

  • Some children are playing outside.

Children is a common noun in the sentence. It is a plural noun, referring to a category. It does not tell us who those children are. Taking their individual (proper) names would do that.

More examples of a common noun

Let’s study some examples of common nouns alongside some examples of proper nouns. This would help us understand a common noun better.

Common noun: I won’t watch this movie. It’s too dramatic.
Proper noun: I won’t watch Baahubali. It’s too dramatic.

Common noun: I have never dined at a restaurant in my life.
Proper noun: I have never dined at Sandoz in my life.

Common noun: I met an actor yesterday.
Proper noun: I met Tom Cruise yesterday.

Common noun: This is a country.
Proper noun: This is India.

Common noun: I want to gift my brother a bike.
Proper noun: I want to gift my brother TVS Apache RTR 160.

Common nouns referring to animals

  • Dog
  • Elephant
  • Lion
  • Tiger
  • Zebra
  • Elephant
  • Monkey
  • Pig
  • Cow
  • Horse
  • Donkey
  • Leopard
  • Rabbit
  • Bear

Common nouns referring to fruits

  • Apple
  • Banana
  • Pear
  • Orange
  • Papaya
  • Mango
  • Cherry
  • Grapes
  • Pineapple
  • Avocado

Common nouns referring to vegetables

  • Potato
  • Tomato
  • Onion
  • Broccoli
  • Capsicum
  • Cabbage
  • Mushroom
  • Brinjal
  • Carrot
  • Ginger

Common nouns referring to people

  • Man
  • Person
  • Human being
  • Teacher
  • Doctor
  • Singer
  • Politician
  • Mother
  • Father
  • Boy
  • Girl
  • Friend
  • Citizen
  • Individual
  • Trainer
  • Coach
  • Helper
  • Cook
  • Chef
  • Driver
  • Cop

Common nouns referring to things

  • Fan
  • Bottle
  • Phone
  • Car
  • Bike
  • Remote
  • House
  • Shoes
  • Computer
  • Pencil
  • Copy
  • Book
  • Bag
  • Box

Common nouns referring to places

  • School
  • Library
  • College
  • Hospital
  • Temple
  • Garden
  • Park
  • City
  • Country
  • Zoo
  • Hotel
  • Bar
  • Restaurant
  • Court
  • Airport
  • State

Common nouns referring to abstract ideas

  • Democracy
  • Politics
  • Poverty
  • Pollution
  • Election
  • Fear
  • Truth
  • Marriage
  • Polygamy
  • Faith
  • Peace
  • Religion
  • Education

Common nouns referring to emotions/feelings

  • Love
  • Hate
  • Anger
  • Joy
  • Pleasure
  • Sadness
  • Happiness
  • Anxiety
  • Disgust
  • Shame
  • Regret
  • Envy

Common nouns referring to qualities

  • Honesty
  • Bravery
  • Creativity
  • Humility
  • Compassion
  • Empathy
  • Wittiness

Common nouns referring to reptiles

  • Tortoise
  • Crocodile
  • Snake
  • Chameleon
  • Lizard
  • Tortoise
  • Turtle

Common nouns referring to insects

  • Ant
  • Bee
  • Cricket
  • Cockroach
  • Bug
  • Butterfly
  • Spider
  • Scorpion
  • Caterpillar
  • Snail
  • Grasshopper

Common nouns referring to birds

  • Parrot
  • Owl
  • Sparrow
  • Crow
  • Peacock
  • Duck
  • Turkey
  • Dove
  • Goose

NOTE: names of fruits, vegetables, animals, etc are common as they create a class/category and different types or varieties in their category.

Common nounsProper nouns
AppleGranny Smith, Honeycrisp, Cameo
MangoDasheri, Chaunsa, Alphonso
GrapesMoon Drop, Sweet Jubilee, Valiant
ElephantAfrican forest elephant, Asian elephant, Sumatran elephant, Borneo elephant
TigerSiberian tiger, Bengal tiger, Indochinese tiger
DogAlusky, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever
BeeIndian bee, Apis florae,

Please note that some common nouns have multiple sub-categories (common nouns) in them. The proper noun might have to go through multiple layers (categories).

Writer’s note (tip)

There are a lot of things, mostly non-branded, that are not given specific names. They are just known by their head/categorical name, which is the common noun here.

When we go to a shop, looking for a bowl or glass, we just say that we want a bowl/glass. We don’t give the shopkeeper a specific name of the bowl/glass as there are hardly any. The shopkeeper, in return, shows a couple of bowls/glasses to choose from.

Similarly, there are other things that are usually not given unique names under their head (common names).

But that might not the case when you go shoe shopping. You might have a specific product in mind that you are looking for. Most shoe companies give unique names to the shoes they create. Some of the most famous shoes are Nike Air Max Excee, Nike Court Vision Low Next Nature, Nike Revolution 6, Puma Wild Rider Grip LS Black, Puma Wild Rider Grip LS Black, etc. These are some specific names of shoes.

Important points to note

A) Common nouns are not capitalized, unlike proper nouns.

B) common nouns can be used both physical or nonphysical in nature.

C) Names of animals, birds, fruits, and vegetables are not proper nouns because they have further categories in them.

D) Common nouns are used to refer to people and things without making them specific.


What is a common noun?

A common noun is a name given to something or someone without making it specific. Common names of people, things, places, animals, birds, etc are common nouns. Some common nouns in English are dog, man, cat, pen, table, school, cow, crow, park, etc.

Give 10 examples of common nouns.

Here are 10 examples of common nouns: boy, girl, man, table, house, park, cat, dog, school, and teacher.

How do you identify a common noun and a proper noun?

A common is not capitalized and a proper noun is, meaning the first letter of a proper noun is always capitalized whereas the first letter of a common noun is not capitalized unless the sentence starts with it.

Is apple fruit a proper noun?

No, it is a common noun. There are different specific types of apples like Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, etc.

What are the rules for common nouns?

A common noun is a generic name given to a class of items. It is not capitalized unless the sentence starts with a common noun.

Is mango a common noun?

Yes, a mango is a common noun as there are different types of specific mangoes like Alphonso, Dashehari, Chausa, etc.

Now, we know everything about compound subjects. Feel free to share your question, doubt, or feedback in the comment section, and also, share the post with the people that need it.

For one-on-one classes, contact me at [email protected].

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Ashish found his first love—the English language—a few years back. Since then, he has been immersed in the language, breaking down the language and teaching it to passionate English learners. He has a flair for listening to the English language (podcasts, sitcoms, stories), observing the nuances, and making it easy for English learners. He is known for breaking down complex English topics and making them easy to be understood.

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