Man = common noun; James = proper noun.
State = common noun; California = proper noun.
Soldier = common noun; Lieutenant Mark Davis = proper noun.
Restaurant, waitress = common noun; Applebee’s, Betty = proper noun.
Capitalizing Proper Nouns
The rules for capitalizing proper nouns are pretty simple. Proper nouns always begin with a capital letter.
However there are times when a word can be used as either a common noun or proper noun and you might get confused as to when you should use the capitalized form. For example, “father” can either be common or proper.
One rule for thumb is that if you are using the word as a title and name it should be capitalized.
See the difference? In the first example the word was used more generally as a common noun. In the second example, the word was used like a name. In this instance the term “father” took the place of the actual name, such as “Bob.”
To make things a little clearer for you, here is a list of proper nouns categories.
- Holidays: Christmas, New Year’s Day, Hanukkah, Thanksgiving
- Geographical areas: San Francisco, Europe, Spain, the Nile River
- People and pets: Mrs. Caroline Jones, Rip Van Winkle, Snoopy
- Books, Newspapers, Magazines: Wuthering Heights, Atlanta Journal, Southern Living
- Companies and organizations: Google, ChildFund International, General Electric
- Religious terms: Christian, Methodist, Hindu, God, Allah
- Places, buildings: Yellowstone National Park, Empire State Building, Ritz-Carlton
- Titles: President Bush, King George, Queen Elizabeth, Judge Judy (titles are not capitalized when they’re referred to in general terms. For example: The criminal appeared before the judge.
- Languages: English, French, Italian
- Brand names: Coach, Pepsi, Lucky
- Possessive Proper Nouns
Creating the possessive form of a proper noun follows the same rule as the possessive of a common noun. Add ‘s if the word is singular or if the word ends in s just the apostrophe. Plural nouns that end in s get an apostrophe at the end.
- Mary’s coat
- United States’ health care program
- Georgia’s swampland
- Kansas’ prairie lands
Proper names that end in s are made possessive by adding ‘s: Charles’s house. It’s also correct to just add the apostrophe, such as with Jesus’ mother.
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