Common and Proper Nouns

Common nouns are nouns that name a general person, place, or thing (e.g., I like the painting vs. I like the Van Gogh; she owns a car vs. she owns a Toyota). A common noun must fall into one or more of these categories:

  • Abstract nouns: Things you can’t see or touch (e.g., sadness, hope, justice).
  • Collective nouns: Describe groups (e.g., class, jury, team).
  • Compound nouns: Nouns made up of more than one word (e.g., bus stop, haircut, sunrise, sister-in-law).
  • Concrete nouns: Things you can see or touch (e.g., door, table, dish).
  • Non-countable nouns: Objects or ideas you can’t count, that lack a plural form (e.g., music, oxygen).
  • Gender-specific nouns: Things which are male or female (e.g., mother, father, waitress).
  • Verbal nouns, also called gerunds: Describe actions and always end in -ing (e.g., reading helps you learn English).

Proper nouns name a specific person, place, or thing and are almost always capitalized. People’s names are proper nouns, as are the names of states, streets, rivers, oceans, countries, companies, institutions, churches, etc. (e.g., I want to live in Chicago vs. I want to live in the city).

To help students understand the difference between common and proper nouns, give them 10 statements that include a wide variety of proper nouns. Some of the proper nouns should be properly capitalized and others should be erroneously uncapitalized; also, some common nouns might be erroneously capitalized. Have students edit the statements so all proper nouns are capitalized and all common nouns are lowercase.

View the Common Core State Standards Related to Common and Proper NounsClose

Common Core State Standards Related to Common and Proper Nouns

Use common, proper, and possessive nouns.

Demonstrate command of the conventions of Standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

Capitalize holidays, product names, and geographic names.

Identify real-life connections between words and their use.

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Common Nouns – People: athlete, magician, teacher, friend, neighbor, doctor, principal, architect, passenger, scientist

Common Nouns – Places: park, office, museum, mountain, school, stadium, country, restaurant, continent, airport

Common Nouns – Objects/Things: needle, vacuum, table, suitcase, ointment, creature, crayon, parcel, gargoyle, computer

Proper Nouns – People: Helen Keller, Paul Bunyan, Frankenstein, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Zeus

Proper Nouns – Places: Florida, Australia, Wednesday, February, Paris, Saturn, Indian Ocean, Europe, Amazon River, Grand Canyon provides word lists, printables, and interactive games and activities that give students the opportunity to use common and proper nouns.

Try Paragraph Writing Practice with the Common Nouns – Places list.