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Common Noun

Term Definition
Common Noun

A noun is a word that names a person, animal, place, thing, or idea. All nouns can be further classified as proper or common. Common nouns are words used to name general items rather than specific ones.

Introduction to common nouns

Do you want to know more about the part of grammar called the common noun?

In that case, this web page is surely the right place for you. Please continue reading, and you will know all there is to know about the common noun. 

The common noun is simply a noun that refers to a class of objects, as opposed to a specific object. 

For example, the word "restaurant" would be a common noun. However, the specific name "Olive Garden" would not be a common noun. 

The opposite of a common noun is a proper noun. You can usually tell these two apart by the fact that the common noun is almost never capitalized. 

Using common nouns in sentences

Here is an example of the common noun being used correctly within a sentence. 

"The elephants were sleeping inside the barn at the zoo, due to the fact that the rainstorm had flooded their habitat." 

In this sentence, each noun in the sentence is a common noun; none of them are capitalized.

Now, here is an example of the common noun being used in an incorrect way. 

"The family was trying to decide which Restaurant they wanted to go to for their Child's birthday party."

Both restaurant and child are common nouns and thus should not be capitalized. 

In case you are still a little confused about the common noun, here are a couple basic rules you can follow to make sure you're making proper use of it. 

1. The common noun always refers to a generic object. For example, "the restaurant" is a generic term, even if you have a single particular restaurant in mind. This common noun could, in principle, be used to refer to any and all restaurants on the planet. 

2. In contrast to the common noun, the proper noun is always capitalized, and it always refers to a specific object. For example, the name of a person is not a common noun; nor is the actual name of a specific restaurant. So, remember: never capitalize a common noun (unless, of course, it's the first word of sentence).

Further information - Usage and explanation

It is easy to understand how the common noun first came into being. Indeed, it is connected to the very basis and origins of language itself. When a primitive person looked at a tree and called it a "tree", he was in fact inventing the common noun. More broadly, the common noun is based on the human capacity to class similar objects under the rubric of a single set. For example, when one identifies an object by the common noun "book", one also knows that other objects that share the same properties as the first object can also be identified by the word book.

What the common noun cannot do, though, is single out a particular object from the given set of objects in an effective way. At best, the common noun can be used in connection with a demonstrative adjective (or adjectives) for the sake of specificity: for example, you could say to your friend that you want to go to "this" restaurant or "that" restaurant or the "blue" restaurant. This is where the complement of the common noun, the proper noun, enters the picture. Unlike the common noun, the proper noun can identify individual objects by specific name: for example, not just "that" tree, but the Tree of Life. 

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Synonyms: common-noun

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