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The Common Noun

Recognize a common noun when you see one.

Nouns name people, places, and things. Every noun can further be classified as common or proper. A common noun names general items.

Go into the kitchen. What do you see? Refrigerator, magnet, stove, window, coffee maker, wallpaper, spatula, sink, plate—all of these things are common nouns.

Leave the house. Where can you go? Mall, restaurant, school, post office, backyard, beach, pet store, supermarket, gas station—all of these places are common nouns.

Go to the mall. Who do you see? Teenager, grandmother, salesclerk, police officer, toddler, manager, window dresser, janitor, shoplifter—all of these people are common nouns.

The important thing to remember is that common nouns are general names. Thus, they are not capitalized unless they begin a sentence or are part of a title. Proper nouns, those that name specific things, do require capitalization.

Notice the difference in the chart below:

Common Nouns Proper Nouns
coffee shop
waiter
jeans
sandwich
chair
arena
country
fire fighter
Starbucks
Simon
Levi's
Big Mac
Roll-O-Rocker
Amway Arena
Australia
Captain Richard Orsini

Here are some sample sentences:

Although there are five other chairs in the living room, everyone in Jim's family fights to sit in the puffy new Roll-O-Rocker.

Chairs = common noun; Roll-O-Rocker = proper noun.

Harriet threw the stale cucumber sandwich in the trash can and fantasized about a Big Mac dripping with special sauce.

Sandwich = common noun; Big Mac = proper noun.

Because we like an attentive waiter, we always ask for Simon when we eat at Mama Rizzoli's Pizzeria.

Waiter = common noun; Simon = proper noun.

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