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Common Adjective

A common adjective is an adjective that should not be grammatically capitalized, unless it is starting a new sentence. Adjectives are a type of word that modify or describe a noun.

What is a common adjective?

There are some parts of speech in English that are categorized into "common" and "proper" sections. An adjective is one of these.

Interestingly enough, in the very phrase "common adjective", the word "common" is a common adjective. This is because in truth, the vast majority of adjectives can be classified as common. Common adjectives are easily identifiable by the simple fact that it is an adjective that is not grammatically supposed to be capitalized.

Examples of use

Here is an example of the common adjective being used properly in a sentence. 

"Strong winds were expected to emerge from the northeastern corner of the nation and sweep all the way from one coast to the other."

In this sentence, both "strong" and "northeastern" are both common adjectives. "Strong" is only capitalized because it is the first letter of the sentence. 

Now, please consider the following example of a sentence with incorrect usage of the common adjective. 

"'hard work will pay off,' is what his parents had always told him; and this was why he spent Several hours a day doing his homework."

"Hard" should be capitalized here because it is the first word of a sentence; and "several" shouldn't be, because it is a common adjective.

Rules to remember 

Along with using common adjectives correctly, simply reading more can also improve your writing. Here are a couple guidelines that can help you make sure you are using the common adjective correctly in your writing. 

  1. The only time a common adjective should be capitalized is when it is the first word of a sentence. The capitalization here would be based not on the status of the adjective itself, but rather on the grammar rule regarding the first letter of any English sentence. 
  2. The category of common adjective includes the vast majority of all adjectives. The only reason an adjective would not be common is if it were derived from a proper noun, such as someone's name. For example, the term "Shakespearean" would not be a common adjective, since it is derived from the actual man Shakespeare. 

More information on common adjectives

The common adjective would seem to reflect the humble and collective roots of language itself. Language is based on a shared experience of the world, and the category of the common adjective covers most of the different ways in which people have always described nouns. However, when culture begins to develop in a more significant way, specific individual persons or places may become so iconic in the shared experience that you start deriving words from their names. This is when the adjective stops being a common adjective and becomes proper. As our expansion of language grows, so will the types of adjectives and adverbs get more specific.

Again, "Shakespearean" is not a common adjective. But the only reason "Shakespearean" is even an adjective at all is that Shakespeare is very famous within our culture, and we have all kinds of associations surrounding Shakespeare that makes it meaningful to identify one object or another as "Shakespearean". The common adjective, on the other hand, seems to be based on a less specific and more collective experience of the world. For example, the basic color words would all fall within the category of the common adjective, and people have seen and differentiated colors (even before Shakespeare).

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