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Tips for Understanding the Proper Noun

Whenever you see a capital, question whether or not it is a proper noun. Make sure that the capitalized word is in fact a noun: ask yourself, is it a person, place, thing, or idea? You might not be aware that there are also proper adjectives.

Below, the first example contains a proper noun, and in the second example, there is a proper adjective. Can you understand the difference between the two? 

Asia is one of the seven continents of the world.Many people like to eat Asian food.

In the first example, Asia is the subject of the sentence and is clearly a proper noun. In the second example, Asian is an adjective and clearly describes the kind of food. 

Practice with Common and Proper Nouns

It doesn’t often 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 is capitalized does not mean that it is a proper noun! For this reason, most students like to practice determining the kind of noun that is the first word in the sentence.

A common noun is any generic uncapitalized noun. Here are some examples:

ball, tree, flower, moon, dog

Notice that these were all single. Here are some plural examples of common nouns:

balls, trees, flowers, moons, dogs

Most of the time, these nouns end in “s” to indicate plurality. 

A common noun is only capitalized when it is at the beginning of a sentence.

A basic definition of a common noun is a person, place thing or idea that is not specific to a certain, particular, or named person, place, thing, or idea. 

Defining a Proper Noun

In truth, a proper noun functions exactly the same way a common noun does, in that it is a person, place, thing, or idea. However, this proper noun is capitalized. You use them the same way in a sentence as a common noun, but it retains its capitalization whether or not it is 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 own first, middle, and last name are all capitalized: they are proper nouns because they indicate a specific, particular person – you! 

Common and Proper Noun

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 drink is soda.B - My favorite drink is Diet Coke.