Proper Nouns

Proper nouns are a special type of names. In fact, when someone asks us our name, it is such a type of name we use in reply, i.e. Paul or Mohandas or Teresa or any such name.

  • Names of people - like those just mentioned (not man, woman, child, person, etc);

  • Brand names - like Penguin Books, Tata Indica, Lux or Dell (not books, car, soap, or computer);

  • Geographical names - Asia, River Nile, Mount Everest, British Isles (not continent, river, mountain, islands, etc;)

  • Names of institutions - St. Michael's School, Bank of England, European Union (not school, bank, economic entity);

  • Names of books and films - Utopia, Wuthering Heights, My Fair Lady (not book, film, novel, etc.)

Names of this kind are called Proper Nouns.

Parallel Examples of Proper and Common Nouns

To clearly understand Proper Nouns, it is good to contrast them with Common Nouns. These latter are also names, but of a different kind. The examples below clearly illustrate the difference between these two types of nouns.

Proper Common
Elizabeth girl
London city
Cadillac car

We can say that common nouns are ordinary names,
but proper nouns are special names.

Capitalization

See that in the examples above the first letter of every proper noun is a capital (upper case) letter. This is the convention in English.

Sometimes, this can be a problem. What about those proper names which have more than one word in them?

See this...

South Africa, West Bengal, South Korea, North Korea, Western Australia and East Timor,

but...

north Kerala, eastern Australia, southern Europe, and even eastern South Africa.

The 'South' in South Africa and South Korea is part of the official names of these places. The 'north' in Kerala and the 'eastern' in Australia just tell us which part of Kerala or Australia we are talking about.

Even if you remember all the 'rules' or conventions about capitalization, you will still find educated people and reputed newspapers using their own sets of rules.

My advice is this...

  • Be consistent in what you write, i.e. follow the same set of rules, at least within the same piece of writing.

  • When you write for others, e.g. a newspaper, follow their set of rules, which they have compiled in their style book.

Do Proper Nouns Have Singular and Plural Forms?

No.

They are supposed to be unique names.

We don't ordinarily say that 'two Peters' or 'two Anns' have come to see you. We do say that two men or two women have come to see you.

Do Proper Nouns Have Possessive Case Forms?

Yes, they do.

We can say: Peter's money or Ann's house.

For Further Reading and Study...


Related Pages

What is a Noun?

Kinds of Nouns

Common Nouns

Proper Nouns

Collective Nouns

Concrete and Abstract Nouns

Countable Nouns

Forms and Functions

Number

Gender

Case