The English language is unique in what it considers to be common and proper nouns, and there are special rules in place to help you identify proper nouns.
Read on to learn more about the difference between common and proper noun, how to use them correctly, and how to come up with your own examples.
A common noun is a generic noun that isn't capitalized. Here are some examples:
ball, tree, flower, moon, dog
Notice that these were all single. Here are a few plural examples of common nouns:
balls, trees, flowers, moons, dogs
A common noun is only capitalized when at the beginning of a sentence. Most of the time, these nouns end in "s" to indicate plurality.
A proper noun functions in exactly the same way as a common noun. It is a person, place, thing, or idea. However, these types of nouns noun are capitalized. So, they're used in exactly the same way as common nouns, but they retain their capitalization whether or not they come at the beginning of a sentence.
Proper nouns include the days of the week, the months of the year, towns, cities, streets, states, countries, and brands.
Names are all proper nouns, too! Notice how your first, middle, and last name are all capitalized: they are proper nouns because they indicate a specific, particular person - you!
In each of the examples below, sentence "A" uses a common noun, and sentence "B" replaces this common noun with a proper noun. See if you can tell the difference:
A - Mary liked to read a book every night before she went to bed.
B - Mary liked to read Harry Potter every night before she went to bed.
A - My favorite thing to drink is soda.
B - My favorite thing to drink is Diet Coke.
A - In my country, you cannot marry more than one person at a time.
B - In the United States, you cannot marry more than one person at a time.
Whenever you see a capitalized letter, question whether or not it is a proper noun. Make sure the capitalized word is, in fact, a noun: ask yourself, is it a person, place, thing, or idea? This is important because there's another classification of proper words. That is, proper adjectives.
Below, the first example contains a proper noun and the second example contains a proper adjective. Can you spot the difference between the two?
Asia is one of the seven continents of the world. (proper noun)
Many people like to eat Asian food. (proper adjective)
In the first example, "Asia" is a proper noun, the name of a specific place. In the second example, "Asian" is an adjective describing the type of food.
It doesn't take much to know which nouns in a sentence are proper nouns, unless the proper noun is the first word in the sentence. Remember - just because it's capitalized doesn't mean it's a proper noun. Now that you're a common and proper noun master, feel free to fill out these common and proper noun worksheets!