Common Noun

There are many different types of nouns. In fact, an entire universe of nouns exists, ranging from abstract nouns to mass nouns. Each serves its own unique purpose in everyday communication, but the type of noun you're most likely to come across is the common noun - the most basic noun classification. Let's take an in-depth look into common nouns and how they work.

What is a Common Noun?

The standard definition of a noun is that it names a person, place, thing, or idea. But that's not all there is to a noun.

  • A noun can refer to anything that is living or nonliving, animate or inanimate.

  • It can also name a place or an abstract idea or concept.

A common noun is your everyday noun, such as aunt or state. They are not capitalized unless they start a sentence or are part of a name, like Aunt Dorothy.

A common noun is a more generalized version of a proper noun, which names a specific living or nonliving thing, place, or idea. Proper nouns include the names of the months (e.g., November), the days of the week, organizations, people and their titles (e.g., Queen Elizabeth), places, books, plays, movies (e.g., Jurassic Park), newspapers, and more.

Nouns are basic to sentence structure because they, along with pronouns, serve as the subject of the sentence. And, of course, no sentence can be complete without a subject.

Types of Common Nouns

There are five classifications of common nouns:

  • Countable nouns

  • Uncountable nouns

  • Collective nouns

  • Concrete nouns

  • Abstract nouns

Let's look at each one of these individually and explain the rules of usage.

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Countable Nouns

Countable nouns can be both singular and plural. They are distinct units that are easily tallied or numbered, like:

  • five cats

  • one hundred miles

  • a thousand kisses

A singular countable noun must be preceded by a determiner. These are words that clarify, such as: a, an, the, that, this, one, our, my, and which. Use a countable noun in a sentence like this:

  • The dolphin is friendly.

  • My car is red.

  • I bought this dress on sale.

Uncountable Nouns

Uncountable nouns, also called non-countable nouns, are singular only. You cannot use "a" or "an" with them; it doesn't make sense to refer to "a water." However, you can use other words to describe their quantity, like:

  • droplets of water

  • tons of fresh air

  • blades of grass

Certain quantifiers may be used such as: a lot, any, some, and too much. Here are some example sentences with uncountable nouns:

  • There is too much furniture in here.

  • A little generosity goes a long way.

  • Do you have any sugar?

Collective Nouns

Collective nouns represent a group of things. 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

  • society

  • 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 troupe out at the restaurant.

  • Is the entire school here?

Concrete Nouns

Concrete nouns represent something physical that can be experienced through the senses. They can be common, proper, singular, plural, countable, uncountable, or collective. Examples include:

  • cheese

  • computer

  • flower

  • guitar

  • house

  • 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.

Abstract Nouns

Abstract nouns refer to things that aren't concrete. They cannot be seen, touched, heard, smelled, or tasted. They refer to emotions, ideas, concepts, traits, experiences, or states of being. Examples include:

  • culture

  • deceit

  • hatred

  • love

  • maturity

  • peace

  • sympathy

These nouns stand in stark contrast to concrete nouns. We'll never be able to touch or hold them in a literal sense. Here are some example sentences with abstract nouns.

  • He's filled with curiosity.

  • Athens is the birthplace of democracy.

  • She has no trust in him.

We Live in a Noun World

Most sentences have at least one noun. An exception would be an imperative sentence with an implied subject like, "Leave now!" where "you" is understood. Typically, however, we need at least one noun to make a complete sentence. Surely, without nouns, all our favorite novels, poems, movies, and plays wouldn't exist.

Now that you understand what a common noun is, it would be a good idea to continue your noun studies with a review of proper nouns. And, when you're ready, draw back the curtains and experience the many different types of nouns in the English language.

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