Common vs. Proper Nouns: The Ultimate Guide

Improve your grammar skills by mastering common and proper nouns. This lesson makes it easy and simple!

A person or a place can have two types of names:

  1. special names &
  2. general names. 

Special names are called proper nouns. On the other hand, general names are called common nouns.

So, nouns can be classified into two types:

  1. proper nouns &
  2. common nouns

Look at the following example:

  • Mike is a doctor.

Here, 'Mike' and 'doctor' refer to same person. 'Mike' is his special name. So, 'Mike' is a proper noun. On the other hand, 'doctor' is a general name which does not refer to any specific person. So, 'doctor' is a common noun. 


What are Proper Nouns?

Proper nouns refer to specific names of people, places, pet animals or organizations. They are always capitalized. 


  • People: Michael Jordan, Leonardo da Vinci, Ms. Jackson
  • Places: Eiffel Tower, Mount Everest, The Amazon rainforest
  • Things: Mona Lisa, The Bible, The Great Wall of China


A proper noun always begins with a capital letter even if it is in the middle of the sentence. 

  • Wrong: 'Man and Superman' was written by george bernard shaw
  • Right: 'Man and Superman' was written by George Bernard Shaw.


What are Common Nouns?

Common nouns refer to general names of people, places, things, or ideas. They are not capitalized unless they begin a sentence. 


  • People: teacher, doctor, student, friend
  • Places: park, city, country, river
  • Things: book, chair, idea, happiness
A common noun begins with a small letter unless it is at the beginning of a sentence.
  • Wrong: Bob is a Teacher.
  • Right: Bob is a teacher. 


Common Nouns vs Proper Nouns: What's the Difference?

A common noun is a general name which is shared by many people, animals, places, things, or ideas. On the other hand,  a proper noun is a  specific name for an individual entity and it is not shared by any one. Look at the following example and read the explanation:

Common Noun: I visited a city.
Proper Noun: I visited New York City.

In the common noun example, "city" is a general term that doesn't specify which city is being referred to. In the proper noun example, "New York City" is a specific location, and "New York" is capitalized because it's a proper noun. 

More examples of common nouns vs proper nouns:

Common Nouns
Proper Nouns
City - refers to any city in general
New York City - a specific city
Dog - refers to any dog in general
Rover - a specific dog's name
Book - refers to any book in general
"To Kill a Mockingbird" - a specific book title
Restaurant - refers to any restaurant in general
McDonald's - a specific restaurant chain
Mountain - refers to any mountain in general
Mount Everest - a specific mountain

Sentences Using Both Common Nouns & Proper Nouns:

Common Nouns
Proper Nouns
City: "I live in a big city."
New York City: "I live in New York City."
Dog: "The dog barked loudly."
Rover: "Rover barked loudly."
Book: "I read a fascinating book."
"To Kill a Mockingbird": "I read 'To Kill a Mockingbird.'"
Restaurant: "Let's eat at a restaurant."
McDonald's: "Let's eat at McDonald's."
Mountain: "We hiked up a mountain."
Mount Everest: "We hiked up Mount Everest."

These examples show the distinction between common nouns, which are general names for a type of person, place, or thing, and proper nouns, which are specific names for particular persons, places, or things.

Types of Common Nouns

Common nouns can be further classified into several types based on the categories they represent. For example, collective nouns, material nouns, abstract nouns, concrete nouns, occupation nouns, verbal nouns, singular nouns, plural nouns, etc. are common nouns.