Difference between Proper Nouns and Common Nouns

Difference between Proper Nouns and Common Nouns

In English, there are types of nouns, including proper, common, abstract, collective, countable and uncountable nouns. Many students find it is hard to distinguish common nouns and proper nouns. Today I am going to tell you the different between these two types of noun.

What is a Proper Noun?

  • Proper nouns are nouns that refer to specific people, places, events or things.
  • Since the noun represents the name of a specific person, place, events or things, Proper Nouns always begin with capital letters.

  • The names of days of the week, months, historical documents, institutions, organizations, religions, and their adherents are proper nouns.
  • A proper noun is the opposite of a common noun.

Examples of Proper Nouns:

  • Rutherford B. Hayes 
  • Dmitri, Sisley
  • Scarlett O’Hara  
  • Marlon Brando
  • Zaire
  • Denmark
  • China
  • Johann Christian Bach
  • Gucci
  • Pepsi

Examples of Proper Nouns in sentences

  • John likes strawberries. 
  • I went to Oxford University and then I went to London to work for a psychiatrist. 
  • We flew to Geneva with British Airways. 
  • I go to work on Monday.
  • Christmas is celebrated on the 25th of December.

Rules on how to capitalize Proper Nouns

If you are unsure whether or not a noun is proper and should be capitalized, check these rules. Always capitalize according to the following rules in the table.
Names of specific peopleMother Teresa,
Queen Elizabeth II,
Bill Gates
Names of specific agencies, organizations, or bodiesSupreme Court,
Red Cross,
National Science Foundation,
Bureau of Public Works.
Names of days, months, holidays, and special days of observanceMonday,
Mother’s Day.
Titles of rank or respect before a nameLord Nelson,
President Truman,
Mrs. Robinson.
Names of specific places or regionsLos Angeles,
Words referring to deities or holy booksGod,
the Koran,
the Talmud,
the Bible.
Names of historical events, periods, and documentsthe Middle Ages,
the Magna Carta,
the Classical period.
Words which show family relationship when they are used as names and
when they are used with names
Uncle Jon,
Cousin David.
The principal words in titles of books, magazines, articles, plays, movies,
songs, or pieces of art
The Last Supper,
A Tale of Two Cities,
The New Yorker,
The Foreigner.

Articles (a, an, the), conjunctions, and prepositions are not typically capitalized unless they begin the title.

What is a Common Noun?

  • Common nouns are general nouns. it is a name shared by things of the same class or kind.
  • A common noun is different from a proper noun because its first letter is not put in a capital letter except when it is used to begin a sentence.
  • Common noun also differs from a proper noun because it is a general name of a thing.

Examples of Common Nouns

  • magnet
  • angel
  • orchid
  • subway
  • persimmon
  • petticoat
  • water
  • coke(Common nouns do not begin with capital letters unless they start sentences)

Examples of Common Nouns in sentences

  • According to the sign, the nearest town is 12 miles away.
  • All the gardens in the neighborhood were invaded by beetles this year.
  • She doesn’t understand why some people insist on having  5 different brands of curry sauces in their cupboards.

Common Nouns with determiners

There are two types of determiners – indefinite determiner and definite determiner. You need to understand how to use a correct determiners when you use the Common Nouns.
1. Indefinite determiner with Common Nouns

If you just want to say that the person or thing is in that set, you use an indefinite determiner with the common noun.

  • Examples:
    He met a boy who was a student there.
    Have you got any comment to make about that?
    There are some diseases that are clearly inherited.

2. Definite determiner with Common Nouns

If you want to show which member of a set you are talking about, you use a definite determiner with a common noun. 

  • Examples:
    I put my arm around his shoulders.
    He came in to see me this afternoon. 

Distinguish Proper Nouns and Common Nouns in an easy way!

After understanding the different between Proper Nouns and Common Nouns, it is time to combine two concepts together and see the difference.

Here is the first example:

  • Proper Nouns: Peter and David
  • Common Nouns: persons, men, or boys

In the above example, Peter and David are proper nouns. Their common nouns are persons, men or boys.

Here is the second example:

  • Proper Nouns: London and New York
  • Common Nouns: towns, or cities

In the above example, London and New York are proper nouns. Their common nouns can be called towns or cities.


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