Please consider the meanings of the two words "common" and "ordinary":

1.belonging equally to, or shared alike by, two or more or all in question: common property; common interests.
2.widespread; general; ordinary: common knowledge. 5.of frequent occurrence; usual; familiar: a common event; a common mistake.

1. Of no special quality or interest; commonplace; unexceptional: One novel is brilliant, the other is decidedly ordinary; an ordinary person.
2. Plain or undistinguished: ordinary clothes.

and let me know in the following examples which choice is more preferred over the other and why?
Additionally, please define if one choice doesn't work in any example of mine:

Example one:

  • The e-mail was written in a friendly and ordinary/common language.

Example two:

  • He didn't do something strange and I think his behavior was quite ordinary / common.

Example three:

  • Many teenagers, smoke, and attempt risky (sexual) behaviors. That sounds not interesting, but stuff like these are ordinary / common between the youth today.
  • "A language" means French, English, Russian, and so on. Your example one should read in friendly and ordinary/common language, because language is an uncountable noun in that sentence. (I'd probably use everyday in that sentence, but the other two adjectives work as well.) Jun 17, 2019 at 13:01

2 Answers 2


Common generally refers to thinks which are frequent or occur a lot, whereas ordinary refers to things being plain or of no particular note.

In your examples:

Example one:

- Common -language most frequently used

- Ordinary - language without using any fancy words or confusing constructions

Example two:

- Common - Doesn't really work here, unless you're trying to refer to him as a "commoner" which is a rude way of saying that he isn't anyone of note

ordinary - His behavior was As expected

Example three: Please note there are a few mistakes in this sentence, I have tried to correct but it's not a particually good sentence:

Many teenagers smoke and attempt risky (sexual) behavior, which do not sound interesting, but stuff like that is ordinary / common between the youth today.

- Common - Happens a lot

- Ordinary - Stuff like this is not unusual for youth today


These words are close to being interchangeable. However, there's another definition of common that you need to be aware of. From Merriam-Webster:

5a: Falling below ordinary standards: second-rate
5b: lacking refinement: coarse.

When you say that somebody's behavior was quite common (example 2), native English speakers are likely to assume that this is the definition you mean. So for that example, you need to use ordinary.

On the other hand, if the meaning of common is clear from context, you can describe behavior as common, and have it mean definition you want. For example, you could say this behavior is common among young people today, it's clear that definition doesn't apply

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