Proper and Common Nouns
What is a Proper Noun?
Proper nouns have two distinct features: They name specific one-of-a-kind items, and they begin with capital letters, no matter where they occur within a sentence. Here, we’ll take a closer look at proper nouns, provide proper noun examples, and help you learn how to use a proper noun the right way.
Remember that all nouns are words naming people, animals, places, things, and ideas. Every noun can be further classified as either common or proper. The distinction is very easy to make once you see some examples and come up with a few of your own.
Proper Noun Examples
In the following sentences, proper noun examples are compared with common nouns. Notice that the proper nouns are specific and unique, while the common nouns are much more general in nature.
- Common noun: I want to be a writer.Proper noun: Agatha Christie wrote many books.
- Common noun: I’d like to adopt a cat.Proper noun: Cleopatra is the cutest kitten ever.
- Common noun: Would you like a cookie?Proper noun: I’m craving Oreos.
- Common noun: Let’s go to the city.Proper noun: Let’s go to San Francisco.
- Common noun: My teacher starts work before sunup.Proper noun: Mr. Bell seems to understand what students need.
- Common noun: I think that’s a planet, not a star.Proper noun: I can see Jupiter tonight.
- Common noun: He’s always hanging out with his girlfriend.Proper noun: He never goes anywhere without Sarah.
- Common noun: There are a lot of important documents in the archives.Proper noun: There are many important documents at The Library of Congress.
How to Use Proper Nouns
It’s easy to use proper nouns, once you know what they are. Simply place them in your sentences as you would common nouns, ensuring that you capitalize them. Here are some examples to help you get started.
- Brett had hoped for an easy teacher for his algebra class, but he got Ms. Boggs, whose unreasonable demands and short temper made the semester unbearable.→ Teacher is a common noun. Ms. Boggs is a proper noun.
- Gloria had a craving, and not just any cookie would do. She went to the store and bought a box of Oreos.→ Cookie is a common noun. Oreos is a proper noun.
- We wanted to try a new restaurant, so we went to Taste of Thai.→ Restaurant is a common noun. Taste of Thai is a proper noun.
At some point, everyone has the same question: What is a common noun? Here, we’ll take a look at common nouns and provide some common noun examples so you can easily recognize common nouns when you see them. Don’t worry, this will be painless.
What is a Common Noun
A noun is a word that names a person, animal, place, thing, or idea. All nouns can be further classified as proper or common. Common nouns are words used to name general items rather than specific ones. Go into your living room. What do you see? Lamp, chair, couch, TV, window, painting, pillow, candle – all of these items are named using common nouns.
Common nouns are everywhere, and you use them all the time, even if you don’t realize it. Wherever you go, you’ll find at least one common noun. Street, closet, bathroom, school, mall, gas station; all of these places are named using common nouns.
People in general are named using common nouns, though their official titles or given names are proper nouns. When we refer to people using common nouns, we use words like teacher, clerk, police officer, preacher, delivery driver, boyfriend, girlfriend, grandma, cousin, and barista.
The takeaway is this: common nouns are general names and unless they are part of a title like Postmaster General or begin a sentence, they’re not usually capitalized.
Common Noun Examples
The following common noun examples will help you to recognize common nouns. In the sentences that follow, common noun examples are italicized. Notice that the examples providing proper nouns name specific versions of the same type of person, animal, place, thing, or idea.
- Common Noun: You broke my favorite mug.Proper Noun: I can’t believe you broke my Snoopy mug.
- Common Noun: I really want a new pair of jeans.Proper Noun: I really want to buy a new pair of Levis.
- Common Noun: I wish I could remember the name of that painter.Proper Noun: I really love art by Van Gogh.
- Common Noun: They’re all waiting for us at the restaurant.Proper Noun: Everyone else is at Bill’s Burgers.
- Common Noun: I really want to live in a big city someday.Proper Noun: Of all the places I’ve lived, Denver was best.
- Common Noun: Let’s go to watch a live game at the stadium.Proper Noun: Let’s try to get good seats at Wrigley Field.