What is a Proper Noun? | Definition and Examples
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- Proper Nouns
A proper noun is the name of a specific person, place, or thing.
How Do We Identify a Proper Noun?
A proper noun has two distinct features:
It names a specific thing.
It always begins with a capital letter irrespective of where it appears in a sentence.
Elsa is a smart girl. (The word "Elsa" names a specific girl.)
Everyone loves Elsa. ("Elsa" is at the end of the sentence, and is still capitalized.)
I have known Elsa since childhood. ("Elsa" is in the middle of the sentence, and is still capitalized.)
Click on the Circles to Spot the Six Proper Nouns
In writing, we capitalize only proper nouns, although we are tempted to capitalize quite a few words which we deem are important. The idea is to resist this temptation and capitalize only proper nouns.
Capitalizing jobs and titles
Words denoting jobs and titles are not capitalized unless they are used to name a person.
We are going to meet our president, Donald Trump. (The word "president" doesn't name a person, so it's not capitalized.)
We are going to meet President Donald Trump. (The word "President" names a person, so it's capitalized.)
Capitalizing days and months
Names of days and months are capitalized. Names of seasons are not.
We are visiting the park this Sunday.
Grandma is coming home this spring.
For titles of books, movies, and other works, all the main words should be capitalized.
Merchant of Venice
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
If there is more than one word in the names of holidays, all words are capitalized.
Proper nouns don't accompany the definite article "the" most of the time. Take a look at these examples.
Harry works for the American Airlines. (incorrect)
Harry works for American Airlines. (correct)
That said, we use "the" before the plural form of family names while referring to all family members.
Andersons are holidaying in Budapest. (incorrect)
The Andersons are holidaying in Budapest. (correct)
We use "the" before the names of mountain ranges, rivers, countries that have a plural form, and buildings and structures.
The Liberty Bell
Nouns that Can Be Both Common and Proper
Some nouns are tricky because they can be used as both common nouns and proper nouns.
March vs march
Mom vs mom
The difference between "March", the third month in a year, and "march" of soldiers is that the former is a proper noun and therefore capitalized, while the latter is a common noun and not capitalized.
When nouns like mom, dad, and aunt can be replaced by a name in a sentence, they're capitalized.
I asked my Mom to make me hot chocolate. (incorrect)
Here, you can't use your mother's name instead of "Mom".
I asked Mom to make me hot chocolate. (correct)
You can use your mother's name instead of "Mom", and say "I asked Maria to make hot chocolate".
Let’s have a quick look at the formation of possessives from proper nouns.
Add an apostrophe -s.
This rule covers nearly every proper noun, including most names ending in a definite "es" or "ez" sound.
Hone your skills using our free printable Proper Noun worksheets.