What is a common noun? A common noun is a word used for the general name of something, such as a person, place, or object. For example, ‘city’, ‘apple’ and ‘doctor’ are all common nouns as they refer to a place, thing and person.

On the other hand, proper nouns are the specific name of a person, place, or object. For example, ‘London’, ‘Wednesday’ and ‘George’ are all proper nouns.

Unlike proper nouns, common nouns should not be capitalised unless they are the first word of a sentence.

Both proper nouns and common nouns are examples of concrete nouns. This is because they refer to things which can be physically touched, such as an object, person or place.

When do children learn about common nouns?

From KS1 children will be expected to replace common nouns with pronouns in their writing. They will also begin learning how to write nouns in plural form, beginning with adding ‘s’ to the end of words. For example, ‘cat’ becomes ‘cats’ when there is more than one.

Teachers will expand on the rules of making nouns plural by showing children how to make words ending in ‘f’, ‘fe’ and ‘y’ into plurals. Here is a summary of the rules for plural nouns:

Singular word ending Plural Example
‘s’   ‘ch’   ‘tch’    ‘sh’    ‘x’ Add ‘es’ watch becomes watches
consonant and  ‘y’ Remove ‘y’ and add ‘ies’ memory becomes memories
a, e, i, o, u and ‘y’ Add ‘s’ journey becomes journeys
‘f’ Remove ‘f’ and add ‘ves’ half becomes halves
‘fe’ Remove ‘fe’ and add ‘ves’ life becomes lives

How to help children with common nouns?

To help children learn the difference between common and proper nouns, it can be helpful to give them a few practice sentences and ask them to colour the proper noun in one colour and the common noun in another. For example:

Beth went to London in her car.

Beth and London are proper nouns and car is a common noun.

  • To practice making nouns plural, you might give your child a list of words and get them to rewrite it in plural form using the correct rule. For example:

Fox becomes foxes, calf becomes calves, baby becomes babies.

How does Learning Street help children with common nouns?

Common nouns form part of our literacy work with children. We introduce the topic then extend learning and then revise. Knowledge of common nouns has come into sharper focus with recent changes to the curriculum so it’s essential for children to have a secure knowledge of this topic.

We help children understand what common nouns are, how to identify them and how to deal with the sometimes tricky issues of plurals.

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