What Do We Mean by Proper and Common Nouns?
Nouns can be categorized into two groups based on whether they refer to a general entity or a specific entity:
- Common Nouns
- Proper Nouns
Common nouns are used to refer to general persons, places, or things in a class or group, rather than specific ones. Examples of common nouns include a mug, table, sofa, TV, phone, wallet, and key. In contrast to proper nouns, which refer to specific people, places, or things, common nouns provide a generic name for a class or group of items. For instance, the noun 'cat' is a common noun, but if you give your cat a name like Marlo, the word Marlo becomes a proper noun.
Common Nouns: Categorization
A vast majority of English nouns fall under the category of common nouns. They can be classified into various groups, such as:
- Concrete nouns: Nouns that refer to entitites that can be perceived through the senses, such as sight, touch, hearing, smell, and taste.
- Abstract nouns: Nouns that cannot be perceived through the senses.
- Compound nouns: Nouns that are formed by combining two or more words
- Countable nouns: Nouns that can be counted
- Uncountable nouns: Nouns that cannot be counted
- Gender-specific nouns: Nouns that refer to either a male or female
- Collective nouns: Nouns that refer to a group of people, animals, or things
- Verbal nouns: Nouns that are formed from verbs
Now let us look at some examples from each category:
doctor, restaurant, father → concrete nouns
love, pride, patience → abstract nouns
toothpaste, bedroom, daughter-in-law → compound nouns
flower, chair, book → countable nouns
rice, water, air → uncountable nouns
actress, sir, wizard → gender-specific nouns
team, society, class → collective nouns
smoking, playing, gardening → verbal nouns
Common nouns are generally written in lowercase letters and are not capitalized, unless they appear at the beginning of a sentence or in a title.
As you know, father is a common noun.
'Fathers' is a plural common noun, yet it is written with capital letter cause it is at the beginning of the sentence.
In contrast to common nouns, which refer to general people, places, or things, proper nouns are specific and typically refer to a
- Names of people: Johnny, Lisa, Tom, Max, Rafael, George Orwell, Leo Tolstoy
- The days of the week: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday
- The month of the year: January, February, March, April, May, June, July, etc.
- Countries: France, England, India, Iran, Russia, Italy, Spain
- States: New York, New Jersey, Nevada, California, Florida
- Cities: Paris, London, New Delhi, Tehran, Moscow, Rome, Madrid
- Towns: Louisville, Lockport, Adams, Harpersfield, Arcadia, Yorktown
- Streets, squares, parks: Wall Street, Houston Street, Madison Avenue, Broadway, Mosholu Parkway, Victory Boulevard, Love Lane, Madison Square, Central Park
Notice that the words 'street,' 'avenue,' 'parkway,' 'boulevard,' 'lane,' 'park,' and 'square' are also capitalized because they are parts of the proper noun.
- names of pets: Bubbles, Lucy, Max, Bella
- holidays: Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas, Valentine's Day, Easter
- planets: Mercury, Mars, Earth, Venus
- Newspaper names: the New York Time, the Guardian, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post
- Book titles: War and Peace, Crime and Punishment, Ulysses, Nausea, To Kill a Mockingbird
- Movie titles: Scarface, Last Tango in Paris, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, No Country for Old Men
- Languages: English, French, Spanish, Korean, Chinese, Persian
Nouns of Address
When addressing people or things directly, we can use nouns of direct address, also known as vocatives or nominatives of address.
Job and Professional Titles
When we address or refer to people by their professional or official titles instead of their actual names, the titles or 'nouns of address' are considered proper nouns and consequently must be capitalized. However, they are common nouns in other circumstances. Take a look at the following examples:
We need your wisdom,
Here 'Mr. Secretary' refers to a man who is the Secretary of State.
It's an honor to meet you,
Here the noun 'Doctor' is a title used to refer to someone who is a doctor.
Who is the
The 'executive director' is the title of a job, but is not preceding a proper noun, so it's not capitalized.
I had a meeting with
But here, 'Executive Director' is preceding a proper noun. Therefore, it is capitalized.
Have you met the
Here, the noun 'pope' is not preceding a proper noun (in this case a particular pope); as a result, it is not capitalized.
But here, the noun 'Pope' is preceding a particular pope and is used as a title. Therefore, it is capitalized.
Family Relationships or Familial Roles
When we directly address or refer to a member of our family or relatives by their titles (dad, mom, sister, aunt, etc.) instead of their actual names, we use nouns that are common in other circumstances, but in this case, are considered proper nouns and must be capitalized. Let us see some examples:
I'm really sorry,
'Mom' is used as a noun of address. As a result, it is capitalized.
Here, although the word 'mom' is referring to a particular mom, it is not capitalized since is not addressing a person (directly).
Are you coming,
Here, 'dad' in capitalized because it is used to address a person.
Here although the word 'dad' is referring to a particular 'dad,' but is still a common noun and is not used as a noun of address. Therefore, it is not capitalized.
Appellations are names or titles, which are common nouns that can be added to people's names. In this case, the appellation is considered part of the proper noun to which it is added, and therefore should be capitalized.
The word 'prince' is a common noun that is used as a title before a proper noun. Therefore, it is capitalized.
The word 'princess' is a common noun that is used as a title before a proper noun. Therefore, it is capitalized.
I can't afford to buy a new
Here 'MacBook' is the name of a laptop made by Apple.
I wish to get a
Here 'Porsche' is a brand of car.
I ordered a
In this sentence, 'Pepsi' and 'Coke' are cola brands.
Cardinal Directions or the Directions of the Compass
Cardinal directions, such as north, south, east, and west, are generally not capitalized, except when used immediately before the names of
Have you been to the west of
Here, the word 'west' is not immediately preceding the proper noun 'Canada,' so it is not capitalized.
Have you been to the
Here, 'West' is immediately preceding the word 'Coast,' therefore it is capitalized.
Days and Month
The names of the days of the week and the months of the year should be
I was born in
My favorite day of the week is
Proper nouns should always be capitalized, whether they appear at the beginning, middle, or end of a sentence. Proper nouns can consist of one or more words, and in the case of multi-word proper nouns,
'Proper adjectives' are formed from certain proper nouns (names of people and places including continents, countries, cities, etc.) and like proper nouns, they must be capitalized.
Do you prefer Italian food or
The words 'Italian' and 'Chinese' are both proper adjectives and respectively made from the proper nouns 'Italy' and 'China.'
I married an
Here 'African' is a proper adjective and comes from the proper noun 'Africa.'
Proper Nouns with and without 'The' (definite article)
Normally, the definite article "the" is not used with proper nouns, unless it is part of the proper noun itself and refers to a particular place or organization, such as companies, hotels, museums, and so on. However, 'the' is used with countries that have "States," "Kingdom," or "Republic" in their names, as well as with the names of canals, rivers, seas, and oceans. "The" is also used with plural names of people and places, and with names that are made with the word "of." Let us see some examples:
the Jenifer is my wife.")
'Jennifer' is a proper noun, so 'the' can't precede it.
Here, you can see the name of a company without 'the.'
Here, you can see a name of a company with 'the.'
Different Kinds of Nouns
There are two kinds of nouns in English based on whether they refer to a generic noun or not.
Here are the tips on the table below.
|Common Nouns||Proper Nouns|
- What Do We Mean by Proper and Common Nouns?
- Proper Adjectives
- Proper Nouns with and without 'The' (definite article)
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