Proper Nouns Explained with Examples

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What Is a Proper Noun?

A proper noun is the name of a specific person, place, or thing.

Examples:

Types of Proper Nouns
Examples
People
Martin, Ana
City
Florida, New York
River
Mississippi, Yukon
Countries
America, England
Continents
North America, Asia
Oceans
Pacific Ocean, Antarctic Ocean
Days of the week
Sunday, Monday
Names of months
January, December
Mountains
Mount McKinley, Mount Rainier
Languages
English, Chinese
Streets
Wall Street, Canal Street
Holidays
Christmas, Easter

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.

Examples:

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

July
Sunday
house
Florida
Amanda
river
mountain
Africa
city
English
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Capitalizing a Proper Noun

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.

    Examples:

    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.

    Examples:

    We are visiting the park this Sunday.

    Grandma is coming home this spring.

  • Capitalizing titles

    For titles of books, movies, and other works, all the main words should be capitalized.

    Examples:

    Merchant of Venice

    Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

  • Capitalizing holidays

    If there is more than one word in the names of holidays, all words are capitalized.

    Examples:

    Christmas Eve

    Father's Day

Using "the" with Proper Nouns

  • Proper nouns don't accompany the definite article "the" most of the time. Take a look at these examples.

    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.

    Examples:

    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.

    Examples:

    The Rockies

    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.

    Examples:

    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.

    Examples:

    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".

Possessives of Proper Nouns

Let’s have a quick look at the formation of possessives from proper nouns.

  • Add an apostrophe -s.

    Examples:

    Heidi’s

    Cinderella’s

  • This rule covers nearly every proper noun, including most names ending in a definite "es" or "ez" sound.

    Example:

    Charles Dickens’s

    Kansas's


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Sample Worksheets

Hone your skills using our free printable Proper Noun worksheets.