Common and Proper Nouns


Every noun is either a common or proper noun. Fortunately, it's not difficult to tell the difference between them. It's important to know the difference because we need to CAPITALIZE proper nouns in English.

Let's review both of these types of nouns.

Common Nouns

Common nouns name general  people, places, things, animals and ideas.

Some examples:  table, chair, school, store, war, week, dog, communism.

Common nouns are not capitalized -- unless -- they are the first word in a sentence:

  • School starts at 9:00 in the morning.
  • We start school at 9:00 am. (NOT: We start School at 9:00 am.)


Proper Nouns

In contrast, proper nouns name specific  people, places, things, animals and ideas.

This list show some different types of proper nouns and examples:

Type of Proper Noun

Example of Proper Noun

People

Titles

Institutions

Buildings & Structures

Places

Religious Names

Historical Names

Events & Festivals

Months / Days of the Week

Lady Gaga, Cristiano Ronaldo, Sarah, Michael

Mr, Mrs, Professor, Dr, Sir, Madam, Queen

United Nations, Coca-Cola, Museum of Modern Art

The White House, Empire State Building

Asia, New York, Atlantic Ocean, Mount Kilimanjaro

Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Torah, Bhagavad Gita

Roman Empire, Berlin Wall, World War I

Wimbledon, New Year's Eve, Miss Universe Pageant

February, December, Tuesday, Friday, Sunday

Relationship between Proper & Common Nouns

Every proper noun has a common noun equivalent. There is always a general way to describe something:

Common Noun

Proper Noun

city

country

book

university

month

religion

ocean

painting

tower

person

dog

team

New York

Argentina

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Oxford University

September

Judaism

Pacific Ocean

Mona Lisa

Eiffel Tower

Michael Jackson, President Obama

Snoopy

AC Milan, Chicago Bulls

Can you clearly see now how common nouns are general  and proper nouns describe something specific?

As you can see on the list, many of the proper nouns have more than one word. All of the words together represent one proper noun. For example, the words -- Pacific Ocean -- together describe one specific ocean.  

Remember proper nouns are CAPITALIZED:

  • The first president of the United States was George Washington.
  • There is a gigantic monument dedicated to President Washington.
  • I am studying at the local university.
  • I am majoring in politics at Yale University.  (A specific university)


Return from common and proper nouns to MAIN nouns page.

Go to main GRAMMAR page.

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