Common and Proper Nouns

Table Of Contents:

Nouns are words which refer to people, places or things. We can divide them into two types – common nouns and proper nouns.

Common nouns

Common nouns are generic nouns. They name people, places, things or ideas that are not specific and not unique.

Examples of common nouns include:

  • air, cat, happiness, music, newspaper.
  • Would you like a cookie?
  • There are a lot of important documents in the archives.

We don’t usually write them with a capital letter, unless they come at the beginning of a sentence:

  • I love music. (NOT: I love Music.)
  • Happiness is the most important thing.

Proper nouns

Proper nouns are names for unique people, places or things and we always write them with a capital letter:

  • My sister’s name is Sarah.
  • The best day of the week is Friday.

Examples of proper nouns include:

  • Australia, Monday, Rome, Russian, Sarah.

Proper nouns include:

a) The names of people, places or institutions:

  • Sarah, Mr Stevens, the United States, Beijing, Cambridge University, the Hilton Hotel.

b) The names of the days of the week, months of the year and public holidays:

  • Saturday, Thursday, June, September, Christmas, Thanksgiving.

(But not seasons: ‘summer’ not ‘Summer’.)

c) The names of nationalities and languages:

  • Mexican, Swiss, English, Spanish.

d) The names of newspapers, magazines and the titles of books and movies:

  • The Guardian, Vogue, Alice in Wonderland, Moby Dick, Terminator, The Lord of the Rings.

Note: When the title has several words, we often write all the important words in capital letters.

  • San Fransisco
  • Three Men in a Boat

Take care with:

  • I went for a walk in the park.
  • I went for a walk in Central Park.
  • I studied chemistry at the university.
  • I studied chemistry at London University.
Note that proper nouns are generally used without articles.
Agatha Christie wrote many books.
Let’s go to San Francisco.
He never goes anywhere without Sarah.

However, there are several categories that are used with the definite article ‘the’.

Watch this video from Learn English from KT explaining the difference between common and proper nouns and some capitalization rules:

See also:

Articles with Proper Nouns

Abstract and Concrete Nouns

Countable and Uncountable Nouns

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