A proper noun is a common discussion in every grammar textbook. In fact, nouns are more important than any other part of a sentence. Some nouns are written in lowercase letters, such as common nouns.
However, some words are capitalized in English, not because they begin a sentence, but because they are considered proper rather than common words. When a noun needs to be capitalized, it's considered a proper noun. Keep reading to learn more about proper nouns, how to identify them, and how to use them in a sentence.
A proper noun is usually understood as a noun that has an initial capital letter, no matter where it sits in a sentence. In order to be a proper noun, like any other noun, the word must be a person, place, thing, or idea. Whereas a common noun names a general person, place or thing, a proper noun is more specific and unique, so dog is a common noun, but Labrador is a proper noun.
Proper nouns are always capitalized. Typically, the first proper nouns students are taught are the ones we use in everyday life to describe time. These include the seven days of the week (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and so on) and the 12 months of the year (January, February, March, and so on).
Countries, states, and cities are also proper nouns. For example, one could write that they live in Boston, Massachusetts, and that Massachusetts is in America. In fact, the name of the street, such as Massachusetts Avenue, is also capitalized because it is a specific place and, therefore, a proper noun.
While we're at it, the name of the person who lives at this address, say Joe Smith, should also be capitalized, because it is a proper noun, too. Make sure that if you add the title "Mr." in front of Joe Smith, it should be capitalized too! Names of people, names of companies, and names of specific brands are all proper nouns that are capitalized.
|Common Noun||Proper Noun|
Telling a proper noun from a common noun is pretty straightforward. Remember, though, while all proper nouns are capitalized, not all capitalized words are proper nouns. Following the rules for capitalization in English will help here.
Take a look at the following examples to see capitalized words that aren't proper nouns. The explanations are in parentheses.
My Italian neighbor likes to cook homemade pasta.
("Italian" might be proper but, in this example, it's not a noun. It's a proper adjective because it's modifying the word "neighbor.")
If you want to drink a Californian wine, go to a winery in Napa Valley.
(Although "Napa Valley" is a proper noun, "Californian" is not. Again, it's a proper adjective because it's modifying the word "wine.")
Our waiter said, "The chef will come out to greet you personally," but he never came.
("Our" is capitalized because it starts the sentence. "The" is capitalized because it starts the quote within the sentence. If the quote wasn't a complete sentence it wouldn't be capitalized.)
Also, be sure to remember that while "I" is always capitalized, it's a pronoun not a proper noun.
Here are some example sentences that feature proper nouns:
Mary went to the store today. (person's name)
She bought her favorite orange juice, Tropicana. (brand name)
It reminds her of home as this juice is bottled in Florida. (place)
Proper nouns are more specific versions of their counterpart, the common noun. Common nouns are not capitalized (unless they come at the beginning of a sentence) and refer to a general category of persons, places, or things. So if a person, place, or thing has a specific name, it is a proper noun and must be capitalized.
Some common nouns can be proper nouns if included in a name. For example, "park" is a common noun. However, "Yellowstone National Park" is a proper noun because it's a specific place.