Distinguishing Proper Nouns & Common Nouns

Proper Noun vs Common Noun

As English language learners, individuals often find the concepts of proper nouns and common nouns confusing due to their similarities. Both common and proper nouns make up the part of speech called “noun,” which groups together all places, things, persons, and ideas. To help clarify these concepts for English language students, the differences between proper and common nouns will be discussed.

What is a Proper Noun?

A proper noun is the name of a place, person, or thing that is unique and distinct, as opposed to many of that kind. For example, London or New York may be cities, but they are unique and therefore labeled as proper nouns. Similarly, a planet may be a common noun, but when we talk about Uranus or Mars, we write them in capitalized form and call them proper nouns. If we are talking about a girl, we are using the common noun for a girl, but as soon as we refer to Britney Spears, her name becomes a proper noun as she is a unique entity. An ocean is a common noun since there are many oceans in the world, but when we talk about the Pacific Ocean, we know we are dealing with a proper noun and not a common noun. A zoo is a common noun since there are many zoos in the world, but when we refer to the Central Park Zoo, we know it is a proper noun as there is only one Central Park Zoo in the world. All the words in a proper noun are written in capitalized form.

What is a Common noun?

Common nouns are the most basic categories of nouns where people, places, and things are labeled as common nouns. They are written without capitalizing the first letter of the word. For example, a man is a common noun, but Vladimir Putin is a proper noun even though he is a man. This means that common nouns are generic in nature and group together a class of things. All mountains are common nouns, but Mount Everest is a proper noun as it points to a specific mountain. If someone has a dog as a pet, it is a common noun, but as soon as they refer to it by its name, like Bruno, they are using a proper noun for the more generic common noun of dog. Common nouns never start with a capital letter unless they occur at the start of a sentence.

Key Takeaways

  • Common nouns are generic and group together a category of things or places, while proper nouns are specific and refer to a unique person, place, or thing.
  • Common nouns are never started with a capital letter unless they occur at the start of a sentence, while all words in a proper noun are started with capital letters.
  • Examples of common nouns are dog, city, mountain, and ocean, while examples of proper nouns are London, Mars, Britney Spears, and Mount Everest.
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard is an accomplished writer with expertise in creating engaging articles and content across various platforms. His dedication to research and crafting high-quality content has led to over 5 years of professional writing and editing experience. In his personal life, Gil enjoys connecting with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. His curiosity and eagerness to learn from others fuel his passion for communication. He believes that engaging with strangers can be both enlightening and enjoyable, making it easier to strike up conversations and expand one's horizons.


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