Proper Adjectives

Proper adjectives are commonly used in English. They tend to modify nouns and pronouns. in this lesson, we will learn more about them.

What Are Proper Adjectives?

What Are Proper Adjectives?

Proper adjectives are derived from proper nouns. These adjectives are capitalized and serve to modify nouns or pronouns.

Based on capitalization, we can categorize adjectives into two groups:

  • Common Adjectives
  • Proper Adjectives

Proper Adjectives: Types

Proper adjectives are derived from proper nouns. They are used to attribute qualities of a specific person, place, language, organized group, etc. to a noun or pronoun. They can be related to:

  • Countries: Italian, Polish, American, etc.
  • Religions: Islamic, Christian, Buddhist, etc.
  • Cities: Chicagoans, Venetian, etc.
  • Famous people: Shakespearean, Elizabethan, Marxist, etc.

Proper Adjectives: Functions

In a sentence, proper adjectives can serve as:

  • Predicative Adjectives
  • Attributive Adjectives

As a Predicative Adjective

Proper adjectives can modify an indefinite pronoun. Or they can appear after a linking verb, in which case, they act as the subject complement of the sentence. Check out the examples:

She is Korean.

We need someone Italian.

As an Attributive Adjective

When a proper adjective is used before a noun to modify it, it acts as an attributive adjective. Here are a few examples:

I bought a Shakespearean novel.

This is an Islamic book.

using a proper adjective to modify a noun

Proper Noun vs. Proper Adjective

There is a subtle difference between a proper noun modifier and a proper adjective. Proper adjectives have a proper noun as the root word, but proper noun modifiers do not have a root.

We watched a French movie. → proper adjective

In this example, the root word for 'French' is 'France.'

Take a slice of this New York pizza not to regret it. → proper noun modifier

In this example, 'New York' is a proper noun, not a proper adjective and it acts as a modifier for pizza.

Proper Adjectives vs. Common Adjectives

The only difference between common and proper adjectives is that proper adjectives are derived from a proper noun; therefore, they are always capitalized which makes them easy to recognize. Common adjectives, on the other hand, are common words that modify a noun or pronoun. Here are the examples:

I gave him a beautiful flower.

In this example, there is no proper root noun so it is a common adjective.

I gave him a Polish flower.

Here, 'Polish' is derived from the root proper noun 'Poland'.

When we have proper adjectives in compound nouns, the compound noun is considered a common noun because we are not speaking about something specific. For example:

French (proper adjective) + baguette (common noun) = a French baguette (a common noun)

Persian (proper adjective) + cat (common noun) = a Persian cat (a common noun)

Russian (proper adjective) + roulette (common noun) = Russian roulette (a common noun)

Proper Adjectives: Dictation Rules

Since proper adjectives are derived from proper nouns and the initial letter of proper nouns is always capitalized, proper adjectives start with a capital letter as well. For example:

Italian, Christian, Victorian

Nordic, Portuguese

When a prefix is added to a proper adjective, the prefix is not capitalized and is followed by a hyphen. Here are the examples:

post-European culture

pre-Taoistic beliefs


Sometimes, some common adjectives are capitalized in special cases, because in that particular context, they refer to an ethnic group with a shared culture, heritage, or ancestry. For example, the words 'Native' and 'Aboriginal' in countries such as Australia and Canada.

Proper Adverbs

An adverb formed from a proper adjective is also capitalized. For example:

Eating pork is not Islamically acceptable.

Living Frenchly doesn't mean you have to live in France.


Proper adjectives are adjectives that are capitalized at the beginning and are created out of proper nouns. They are usually related to the following proper nouns:

  • names of countries
  • names of religions
  • names of cities
  • names of famous people


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Compound Adjectives

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