Common and Proper Nouns

Common and Proper nouns

Every noun is either a common or proper noun. Fortunately, it's not difficult to tell the difference between them. It's important to know the difference because we need to CAPITALIZE proper nouns in English.

Let's review both of these types of nouns.

Common Nouns

Common nouns name general  people, places, things, animals and ideas.

Some examples:  table, chair, school, store, war, week, dog, communism.

Common nouns are not capitalized -- unless -- they are the first word in a sentence:

  • School starts at 9:00 in the morning.
  • We start school at 9:00 am. (NOT: We start School at 9:00 am.)

Proper Nouns

In contrast, proper nouns name specific  people, places, things, animals and ideas.

This list show some different types of proper nouns and examples:

Type of Proper Noun

     Example of Proper Noun


 Lady Gaga, Cristiano Ronaldo, Sarah, Michael


 Mr, Mrs, Professor, Dr, Sir, Madam, Queen


 United Nations, Coca-Cola, Museum of Modern Art

Buildings & Structures

 The White House, Empire State Building


 Asia, New York, Atlantic Ocean, Mount Kilimanjaro

Religious Names

 Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Torah, Bhagavad Gita

Historical Names

 Roman Empire, Berlin Wall, World War I

Events & Festivals

 Wimbledon, New Year's Eve, Miss Universe Pageant

Months / Days of the Week

 February, December, Tuesday, Friday, Sunday

Relationship between Proper & Common Nouns

Every proper noun has a common noun equivalent. There is always a general way to describe something:

Common Noun

Proper Noun


New York, Athens, Cairo, Amman


Argentina, South Africa, Thailand


Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone


Oxford University, Kyoto University


September, December, April, June


Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism

ocean, sea

Pacific Ocean, Mediterranean Sea


Mona Lisa, The Starry Night, Primavera


Eiffel Tower, Galata Tower, CNN Tower


Michael Jackson, President Obama, Shakira


Snoopy, Scooby-Doo, Lassie, Pluto


AC Milan, Chicago Bulls, Dallas Cowboys

Can you clearly see now how common nouns are general  and proper nouns describe something specific?

As you can see on the list, many of the proper nouns have more than one word. All of the words together represent one proper noun. For example, the words -- Pacific Ocean -- together describe one specific ocean.  

Remember proper nouns are CAPITALIZED:

  • The first president of the United States was George Washington.
  • There is a gigantic monument dedicated to President Washington.
  • I am studying at the local university.
  • I am majoring in politics at Yale University.  (A specific university)

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