Common and Proper Nouns

What are Common and Proper Nouns?

Common and Proper are the basic classifications of nouns. General names of people, places, animals, things, and ideas are common nouns. For example:

  • writer
  • country
  • chocolate
  • film
  • book

Proper nouns, on the other hand, refer to specific people, places, and so on. For example:

  • Anne Rice
  • India
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
  • Snowpiercer
  • The Bluest Eye

The distinction between common and proper nouns is quite easy to make. That’s because proper nouns are always capitalized, but common nouns only begin with capital letters when they’re used to start sentences or on very rare occasions of emphasis in written English.

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Common and Proper Nouns Rules

Capitalization errors with nouns are common mistakes in English. The following are the most obvious rules for common and proper nouns that you must remember so that you apply proper capitalization rules or prevent capitalization overuse:

Common Nouns:

  • Pertain to general names
  • Are never capitalized except at the beginning of sentences and emphasis

Proper Nouns:

  • Pertain to specific names
  • Are always capitalized

The next general rule you should follow is the pluralization of nouns. Regular nouns are nouns that add the suffixes -s or -es after them in their plural forms. Irregular nouns may add the same suffixes but have significant spelling changes or not use the suffixes but change form entirely. Additionally, there are nouns that don’t change forms at all regardless of their number. Let’s study the following table:

Regular NounsIrregular Nouns that change formIrregular nouns that don’t change form
book – books
shirt – shirts
banana – bananas
lion – lions
flower – flowers
show – shows
toe – toes
sauce – sauces
mug – mugs
desk – desks
loaf – loaves
person – people
tooth – teeth
child – children
thief – thieves
woman – women
goose – geese
mouse – mice
policemen – policemen
foot – feet
Common and Proper Nouns Table
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Examples of Common and Proper Nouns

The following is a list of common and proper nouns in sentences.

1. Many people rushed to the store to take advantage of the massive sale.

2. Grandma Mary is well-known for her delicious chicken paprika.

3. Our farmhand Ladyo went out to search for the missing sheep.

4. Unfortunately, there is no direct flight from Bacolod to Caticlan

5. Will Robson evaluate the results from yesterday’s survey?

6. I’ve been binge-watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy every Christmas.

7. Soraya’s boss Mr. Cooper was extremely satisfied with her sales record.

8. Does the school accept students who enroll in the second quarter?

9. Last I heard, Orisha was working for the real estate firm in Pusan.

10. Coffee is particularly good when they come from the central highlands.

Common and Proper Nouns Exercises with Answers

Exercise on Common and Proper Nouns

Identify all the common and proper nouns in each of the sentences below:

1. Ginny’s family is flying first-class on Thai Airways.

2. When will the examinees be notified of the results?

3. We are scouting locations in the vicinity of Pocco National Forest.

4. Leslie is set to be the next manager, isn’t she?

5. Their rottweiler Nookie returned out of the blue after being missing for a week.

6. Bison Electronics is popular for producing hundreds of jobs for the community.

7. Before he retired, Mitomi had written eleven books throughout his career.

8. They are cooking a stew from the leftover roasted pork.

9. Are you going to carpool with us or with Celeste’s group?

10. Junction is considered to be the bad side of town so don’t go there after dark.

11. Pepito used to believe in mermaids because of the stories he heard growing up.

12. Can you call Mr. Merrick about the cleaners who are coming this afternoon?

13. Ramona dropped the bags and ran inside the house when she heard a loud bang.

14. San Diego stood for thousands of years before the earthquake destroyed it.

15. Rohan was teaching his daughter how to hold the knife when cutting vegetables.

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1. common noun: family; proper noun: Ginny’s, Thai Airways.

2. common noun: examinees, results

3. common noun: locations, vicinity; proper noun: Pocco National Forest.

4. common noun: manager; proper noun: Leslie 

5. common noun: rottweiler, blue, week; proper noun: Nookie

6. common noun: jobs, community; proper noun: Bison Electronics 

7. common noun: books, career; proper: Mitomi 

8. common noun: stew, pork

9. common noun: group; proper noun: Celeste 

10. common noun: side, town, dark; proper noun: Junction

11. common noun: mermaids, stories; proper noun: Pepito 

12. common noun: cleaners, afternoon; proper noun: Mr. Merrick 

13. common noun: bags, house, bang; proper noun: Ramona 

14. common noun: thousands, years, earthquake; proper noun: San Diego 

15. common noun: daughter, knife, vegetables; proper noun: Rohan 

Common and Proper Nouns List

tourist attraction
Henry Cavill
Christiano Ronaldo
Lady Gaga
Abraham Lincoln
Queen Victoria
Evelyn Salt
Wonder Woman
Katniss Everdeen
tourist attraction
South Korea
St. Scholastica’s Academy
San Sebastian Cathedral
El Nido
Chrysler Building
National Library Board
The Louvre
Thingssocial media platform
fast food chain
Alaskan Malamute
The Witching Hour
Game of Thrones
Burger King
Common and Proper Nouns Examples Table
English Grammar Learning Infographic

Advice for ESL Students & English Language Learners

In English grammar, nouns are considered the main part of speech. They make up the names of virtually everything that exists. But because of their volume and their various types, each one with definitions and rules that sometimes overlap, English language learners might find it difficult or confusing to master them. However, there are a few general practices that can make language studies less challenging, not only with nouns but with all the grammatical concepts. Consider the following advice that could help you achieve your language goals.

1. Use Grammar Lists

Fewer grammar tools can function as effectively as grammar guides such as lists, tables, charts, and diagrams. While they certainly aren’t the only method for studying efficiently, these tools are valuable in introducing grammar concepts. One of their advantages is that the subjects are broken down into their essentials in simplified segments. With this, the grammar topics are much easier to grasp. Another advantage is that they almost always include sentence samples that can greatly aid the acquisition of new vocabulary and improve skills in sentence construction. Pick the ones that work for you, and if you can’t find any, you can always make your own.

2. Use Audio-Visual Resources

Studying English in school isn’t enough to achieve fluency. Self-studying is a necessity. To maximize the effectiveness and benefits of independent learning, you have to use the right resources. Besides lists, incorporating audio-visual materials into your self-study sessions is both an educational and entertaining way to attain proficiency. Considerable exposure to English media can show you how English speakers (native and otherwise) use the language in a variety of situations. Watching TV shows, films, and social media posts, and listening to podcasts or using interactive tools should be done with learning in mind. You need to be aware of certain language elements in English communication, take note of them, and put them to good use. 

3. Practical Use

In all branches of study, theory means nothing without practice. This is especially true in learning English. See, your teachers are simply acting as guides and won’t be there to use the language for you. The most efficient way to improve your proficiency, then, is to use English whenever you have the chance. You may know someone who has perfect grammar but poor speaking skills. This is usually because much of their learning time is spent on books and not in actual conversations. While most English students live in areas where English isn’t widely spoken or used at all, there’s always a way to create your own learning environment. Remember that the only true path to speaking fluently is to talk. You can organize study groups with fellow students and cultivate friendships with both native and non-native speakers. Practical use will greatly improve your language proficiency.

Additionally, it is important for learners to properly understand abstract nouns and types of nouns.

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Common Errors Made by English Learners

The usual errors with common and proper nouns originate from the misuse of articles. Because common and proper nouns are almost always accompanied by indefinite articles “a” or “an,” or the definite article “the,” they must follow their own set of rules, which English learners and even native speakers forget. The following table lists these rules that you should remember to avoid making mistakes:

Article RuleExamples
Singular common nouns always require to have articles before them. Their plural forms, however, do not. In some instances, plural nouns can be preceded by “the” if they refer to particular subjects.– We saw a man. (some random person)
– We saw three strange men. (plural form, no articles needed)
– The man wasn’t behaving normally. (refers to the man we saw previously)
– We saw the three men enter a restaurant. (refers to the three particular men we had already seen.)
We use “an” with nouns that begin with vowel sounds – not letters. The word “hour” starts with a vowel sound, so we say “an hour” even though it begins with a consonant. We use “a” with words that begin with consonant sounds. Nouns that begin with vowel sounds:

– I have an errand to run.
– Can you give me an hour?
– She has an MA in Linguistics.

Nouns that begin with consonant sounds:

– I have a one-dollar note in my waller.
– Lucas wants to choose a university near her home.
– Cinna has a degree in economics.
When using descriptive adjectives, articles must go before them. – Daryl is a good man.
– This is a nice cafe.
– The huge rock almost hit him.
Indefinite articles can replace the words each, one, and per when used to mean numbers– She has a thousand dollars in her bag.
– Their family only has a car.
– It costs 200 dollars a person.
When we refer to particular non-count or mass nouns, we use “the.”– The sugar she bought yesterday was quite cheap. 
– Here’s the money I owe you.
– I can’t believe how clear the water is.
Common and Proper Nouns Common Errors Table
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Learning Strategies and Best Practices with Common and Proper Nouns

One of the most confusing things to remember is when to not use the definite article with geographical nouns and other special instances. It’s good practice to remember the following tables of nouns that require the definite article and those that don’t:

Nouns that DON’T use the definite article “the”:

Names ofExamples
ContinentsAsia, Europe, Australia, Africa, South America, North America, and Antarctica.
Most CountriesSouth Korea, Japan, Spain, France, England, Canada, Australia, etc.
Cities/Municipalities/States/TownsCebu, Tokyo, Hanoi, Seoul, London, Nagoya, Palawan, etc.
StreetsTran Duy Hung Street, 5th Street, Jongno Street, Ipil-ipil Street, etc.
Single Bodies of Water (lakes and bays)West Lake, Lake Eyre, Manila Bay, Shark Bay, Hoan Kiem Lake, Lake Carey, etc.
Single IslandsSnake Island, Easter Island. Boracay, Island, Panay Island, Honshu Island, JeJu Island, etc.
Single MountainsMount Everest, Mount Fuji, Mount Olympus, Mouth Mayon, Mount Reeva, etc.
Sportsbasketball, cricket, football, chess, baseball, hockey, rugby, etc.
LanguagesEnglish, Filipino, Korean, Japanese, Greek, Italian, Icelandic, etc.
Table of Nouns That Don’t Use the Article “The”

Nouns that MUST use the definite article “the”:

Names ofExamples
Names of Countries with United or that are Islands or Archipelagos(Note: the names of archipelagos have no definite rules and must be memorized for correct usage.)

the United States of America or the USA, the United Kingdom or the UK, the United Arab Emirates or the UAE, the Netherlands, the Philippines, etc.
Groups of Islandsthe Andamans, the Baltics, the West Indies, the Batanes Islands, etc.
Oceans/Seas/Rivers/Gulfsthe Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Mexico, the Nile, etc.
Mountain Rangesthe Himalayas, the Andes, the Alps, etc.
Table of Nouns That Use the Article “The”
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Common and Proper Nouns Frequently Asked Questions

As there are many types of nouns, with some that differentiate very specific functions and some being wide classifications, it’s typical to have overlaps across the different kinds. Despite their individual differences, some noun types can also be classified as common nouns.

Note that some of these can be proper nouns as well: abstract nouns, concrete nouns, countable nouns, uncountable nouns, collective nouns, compound nouns, and gerunds. There isn’t a list that depicts 9 types of nouns. All nouns that are general names of people and things are common nouns.

Yes, as they are specific and proper names for brands. They’re not generic types of nouns. Unless brand names or their product lines are stylized to retain lowercase letters (like the product iPhone), they should be treated as proper nouns and follow capitalization rules.

Watermelons and bananas indeed are names of fruit. But they represent all or any kinds of watermelons and bananas and are therefore general words.

In short, they are general names for a kind of fruit. Now, if you’re referring to specific types of watermelons and bananas such as Bush Watermelon or Cavendish Bananas, which are specific names for watermelon and banana types, you need to capitalize them.

If you are pertaining to the bran, then yes it is a proper noun. Not if you are talking about a general name for a type of fruit.

Here are examples of common nouns in 5 sentences:

1. They said German grammar is quite complex.
2. It’s my dream to have a perfect grasp of grammar.
3. Street names in my area are taken from the names of fruits.
4. Harvard University feels like a dream one can never catch.
5. Where is the answer key for the new books?

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