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Proper Noun vs. Common Noun — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Published on October 6, 2023
A Proper Noun names a specific individual, place, or thing and is always capitalized, while a Common Noun refers to a general class of people, places, or things.
Proper Noun vs. Common Noun — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Proper Noun and Common Noun


Key Differences

A Proper Noun designates a unique entity and gives it a specific name, ensuring it stands apart from others. On the other hand, a Common Noun is more generalized, not focusing on the uniqueness but rather on the commonalities among entities.
Proper Nouns always begin with a capital letter, whether they're at the beginning of a sentence or not. Conversely, Common Nouns are only capitalized if they start a sentence.
While a Proper Noun would pinpoint a certain individual, such as "Michael Jordan," a Common Noun would refer to any player in the category, like "basketball player."
Similarly, cities like "New York" or "Los Angeles" are Proper Nouns because they name specific places. The term "city," however, is a Common Noun, as it can refer to any city in the world.
In literature, Proper Nouns help in character or location identification, like "Harry Potter" or "Hogwarts." Meanwhile, Common Nouns such as "wizard" or "school" offer a general classification.

Comparison Chart


Always capitalized
Capitalized only at the start of sentences


Refers to specific entities
Refers to general classes


"Mona Lisa," "Africa"
"painting," "continent"


Identify unique individuals
Classify entities

In a sentence

"Julia lives in Texas."
"The girl lives in a state."

Compare with Definitions

Proper Noun

A noun representing one of its kind.
Mars is known as the Red Planet.

Common Noun

A noun not capitalized unless it begins a sentence.
The river flows calmly.

Proper Noun

The specific title of something.
Mount Everest is the highest peak.

Common Noun

A term for any member of a class of people, places, or things.
The city is bustling with activity.

Proper Noun

A name used for an individual person, place, or organization.
Paris is known for its cuisine.

Common Noun

A generic term without particular distinction.
Every forest has its own beauty.

Proper Noun

A capitalized noun designating a unique entity.
Shakespeare wrote many plays.

Common Noun

A noun that represents a category or group.
A laptop is essential for modern work.

Proper Noun

A noun that distinguishes a particular object.
The Titanic sank on its maiden voyage.

Common Noun

A non-specific name for something.
A dog is a loyal pet.

Common Curiosities

Can a Common Noun ever be capitalized?

Yes, if a Common Noun starts a sentence, it is capitalized.

What is a Proper Noun?

A Proper Noun is a name that identifies a specific individual, place, or thing and is always capitalized.

How is a Common Noun different from a Proper Noun?

A Common Noun refers to a general category or class of things, while a Proper Noun names a specific entity.

Do Common Nouns always start with a lowercase letter?

Common Nouns generally start with lowercase unless they begin a sentence.

Give an example of a Proper Noun and Common Noun in a sentence.

"The author, J.K. Rowling, wrote a book." Here, "J.K. Rowling" is a Proper Noun, and "book" is a Common Noun.

Why is it important to distinguish between Proper and Common Nouns?

Distinguishing helps in precise communication, with Proper Nouns offering specificity and Common Nouns giving general information.

Can a word be both a Proper Noun and a Common Noun?

Yes, depending on context. For example, "apple" can refer to a fruit (Common Noun) or the tech company "Apple" (Proper Noun).

How can one identify a Common Noun in a sentence?

A Common Noun gives a generic name to people, places, or things without being specific and isn't usually capitalized.

Are all names of places Proper Nouns?

Yes, specific names of places, like "California" or "Amazon River," are Proper Nouns.

Do all languages differentiate between Proper and Common Nouns?

While many languages have this distinction, the rules and ways they differentiate might vary.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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