Proper Nouns: Rules And Examples - Parts Of Speech Explained

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Proper Nouns vs. Common Nouns

Proper nouns are unique words we use for people’s names, countries, cities, organizations, businesses, etc., and they have a particular function in the English language with specific rules.

To understand proper nouns, let’s quickly delve into what common nouns are. Common nouns are generic words that aren’t capitalized unless the word begins a sentence. They are used for general, non-specific things, for example, children. It’s important to remember that common nouns refer to less specific things, groups, objects, etc. than proper nouns.

Proper Nouns: Rules and Examples

There are a few rules when it comes to using proper nouns. Let’s delve into them now; as always, we will give you plenty of examples.

Proper Noun Rules: Capital letters

The first letter of a proper noun is always capitalized. We use these types of nouns for people’s names, countries, places, organizations, companies, and languages.

Common Proper Nouns

  • London
  • Chicago 
  • Rome
  • United Kingdom 
  • The United States
  • Italy 
  • Apple 
  • Microsoft 
  • Mary 
  • David 
  • The Eiffel Tower
  • English
  • Italian

Days of the week and months are also proper nouns and are capitalized.

  • Monday
  • Tuesday
  • Wednesday, and so on. 
  • May
  • June
  • July, and so on.

Example sentences using proper nouns:

  • I used to live in London.
  • In Chicago, you can find some pretty good pizza. 
  • Rome has a lot of history.
  • The United Kingdom is short for The United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. 
  • The United States is home to many natural wonders. 
  • I’d love to travel to Italy one day. 
  • Apple is one of the biggest tech companies in the world.
  • Does anyone still use Microsoft?
  • Her name is Mary. 
  • I’m not sure where David is; maybe check outside!
  • Friday is my favorite day; bring on the weekend!
  • What are you doing on Sunday?
  • We’re going to France to see the Eiffel Tower in July. 
  • In Italy, they speak Italian. However, they also have a lot of dialects.

Proper Noun Rules: Using Articles

Articles are words that modify nouns to indicate how much, how many, etc., of that thing there are, and they are "a, an, and the." "The" is most commonly used with proper nouns. However, it’s not always necessary.

We don’t use articles with people’s names.

  • We don’t say the Sandra. We say, Sandra.

We don’t usually use "the" when referring to company names or organizations.

  • We don’t say the Spotify. We say Spotify.

We rarely use articles when referring to a company named after a person.

  • We don’t say the Harvard University. We say Harvard University.

We don’t always have to use "the" when naming a particular place.

  • We don’t say the Paris. We say Paris.

We don’t always need to use a definite article when naming lakes, continents, or islands.

  • We don’t say the Lake Tahoe. We say Lake Tahoe.

So, When Do We Use Articles With Proper Nouns?

In some situations, using an article is necessary. If a proper noun uses "Kingdom," "Republic," "State," or any other common noun in its name, we always use the definite article "the."

For example:

  • The United States or The United States of America
  • The Republic of Ireland 
  • The Democratic Republic of the Congo

We also use "the" when referring to a group of rivers, canals, oceans, and seas.

  • The River Nile
  • The Atlantic or The Atlantic Ocean
  • The Indian Ocean 
  • The Med or The Mediterranean Sea

These proper nouns refer to a group or collection categorized into one proper noun. The article in these names doesn’t always need to be capitalized, but because they start the sentence, in this case, they are.

We often use "the" when referring to pluralized names, groups, or places.

  • The Osbournes 
  • The British Isles 
  • The Pyrenees 
  • The Himalayas 
  • The British Royal Family 

We also use "the" when referring to specific and well-known hotels, restaurants, cinemas, architecture, cultural buildings, and organizations.

  • The British Museum
  • The Louver
  • The Ritz 
  • The Hilton 
  • The Shakespeare’s Globe
  • The White House 
  • The World Health Organization

You will often see "the" with proper nouns that use "of."

  • The Tower of London
  • The Gulf of Khambhat or The Gulf of India
  • The London School of English 
  • The Republic of Korea

You will notice here that of isn’t capitalized because it doesn’t need to be. It's because it's a short preposition and simply adds more information to the proper noun.

We sometimes use "the" for well-known names of theories, ideas, effects, and devices.

  • The Big Bang Theory
  • The Universal Law of Gravitation or Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation

Proper Nouns: Tips and Tricks 

We hope you’ve learned more about proper nouns and their grammatical structure. Here are some tips and tricks to keep in mind.

  • When using an article for proper nouns, sometimes it’s a rule, and other times it’s a style choice.
  • Proper nouns are always capitalized and refer to specific things.

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