An Introduction to the Use of Proper Adjectives

A proper adjective is something that exists as a subset of the larger category of adjectives in general. Adjectives are one of the key eight parts of speech you will find in the English language, and it is important to know and be able to identify which parts of speech construct a complete sentence. Some students may already know some things about nouns, verbs, and adjectives. However, pronouns, adverbs, interjections, conjunctions, and prepositions also exist. In this article, we will focus on examples of proper adjectives, and how one might use these kinds of adjectives in everyday speech or writing.

Before we give proper adjective examples and definitions, it is important to remember that particular parts of speech may not have only one function. In some cases, individual words can do the work of more than one function in a sentence, and these words may hold different definitions based on the particular use cases in which you find them. In short, understanding all the parts of speech in English is a critical skill that helps listeners, writers, and speakers better understand the definitions of the words they come across and use.

proper adjectives

The Basics of Proper Adjective Identification

Depending on their grade levels, some students may already know what adjectives are. When one comes across a noun or pronoun, an adjective is the part of speech that helps to add further description to the former. It is what gives the pronoun or noun more details that can help to build the picture in the mind of the reader or listener. As we mentioned earlier, a proper adjective is in a special category nestled inside the larger subset of adjectives. It may help students to better understand some of these key differences if we first contrast one with the other.

Regular Adjectives and Proper Adjectives

If you know that an adjective helps to add a description to either the pronoun or noun parts of speech in a sentence, it can become easier to decipher these kinds of words. For example, if we write out I saw a large dog today, the key adjective in the sentence is the word large. It is a word that has added some detail to the noun dog. In many cases, you will hear people refer to these adjectives as common adjectives. The descriptors we use here are things we derive from equally common nouns. However, proper adjectives work a bit differently. As you might expect, a proper adjective is something we get from a proper noun.
Proper nouns refer to unique or specific places, people, or objects. Therefore, in order to give key descriptions or details about these kinds of nouns or pronouns, we need our adjectives to be proper, too. This is because, unlike the more general common adjectives, proper ones are things we base on the names of the proper nouns. Much like these nouns, we need to capitalize the proper adjective that we get here.

Proper Adjective Examples Formed From Their Noun Counterparts


Let’s start with a proper noun from which we can get one of our proper adjectives. If we choose a proper noun like the name of the country Canada, you can see that we capitalize it. In order to describe something that we relate to this country, we would need to get it from the root noun and capitalize it, too. Examples of proper adjective use that we get from the word Canada would include Canadian, or something that modifies the proper noun here. One might say that a Canadian winter is particularly cold. Otherwise, they might talk to you about Canadian customs or traditions, and these would be things that Canadian people do that others around the world might not.
Many proper adjectives will have these -an or -ian ends, but exceptions do exist. In most cases, you will need to learn exceptions as you go along. If we stick with the example of countries, you could have Poland, a land that is home to Polish people.


We derive many proper adjectives from the names of famous people, too. For the most part, these people are historical figures who have done something to associate their names with a particular thing or movement. For example, Sigmund Freud was instrumental in creating many parts of the field of psychology today. When speaking about certain psychological terms or practices, one might use the word Freudian to better describe the kind of thing about which they are speaking. Something that is Freudian means that it has heavy influence from things that Sigmund Freud said or did.


Adjectives like these could also come from things, although this might be rarer. Even in such cases, the adjective is usually something we will derive from the name of a person or place. For example, you might hear a song that sounds very similar to some of the music you know from the British group The Beatles. If you do, you may describe this song as particularly Beatle-esque in its listening experience. This kind of adjective describes a thing, the song, but we need the proper noun of the group name in order to get it.

Exceptions to the Rule

Although these are the basic rules for adjectives of this type, exceptions do occur in English. When this happens, an adjective that we would get from a proper noun is something that we would spell out in lowercase letters. In keeping with the theme of countries, you would capitalize the proper noun of Sparta. However, if you want to describe a state of simplicity or something that lacks comfort, you would use the lowercase adjective spartan. Any adjectives that still relate specifically to Spartan society, on the other hand, are ones you would capitalize.


We hope that this guide to some examples of proper adjective use is something that can help students and teachers alike. These kinds of adjectives are just one of several that exist within the larger group. Other types that you might encounter include exclamatory, possessive, demonstrative, interrogative, quantitative, descriptive, and numeral adjectives.

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