top of page
  • Writer's pictureKat Taylor

Making sense of capitalisation: week 4 – capitalising common nouns

Updated: Mar 1


colourful scrabble tiles

A common noun is the generic name for a person, place or thing in a class or group. For example, boy, city and cat are common nouns, whereas James, Sheffield and Felix are the proper nouns that name the specific person, place or thing.


A common noun is not capitalised unless it begins a sentence or appears in a title, unlike proper nouns which are always capitalised.


It's usually fairly obvious if a specific person, place or thing is being named, yet, many writers wrongly capitalise common nouns. Understanding the difference between a common noun and a proper noun will help you know when to capitalise and when not to.


So, time for a quick quiz! Can you tell which of these examples are common nouns and which are proper nouns?


1) Never stroke a tiger, it will eat you for breakfast.


2) "The name's Tigger! T-I-double-guh-ER!"


3) Who was the first president of the United States?


4) A girl came to see you earlier.


5) I'm learning to fly an aeroplane.


6) I'm learning to fly a Spitfire.


Here's a clue: the common nouns are NOT capitalised.


Example number 3 is a good one because the word president could be a common noun or a proper noun, depending on whether it is naming a specific president.


"According to a recent survey, President Abraham Lincoln is the highest ranking US president of all time."


In this example, president is used as both a common noun and a proper noun. Can you tell the difference? It is first used as a proper noun (where it refers to a specific person), and later it is used as a common noun (where it refers to a non-specific person).



I hope this article has made things clearer for you. If you are still feeling baffled, consider having your writing proofread by a professional like me.


 

Also in this series...

Over the coming weeks, we'll discuss all you need to know about capitalisation.



 

Photo by Zhen Hu on Unsplash

Capitalising common nouns

83 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page