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Common and proper nouns

The difference between common and proper nouns is that common nouns refer to general things (like "a city" or "a mountain"), and proper nouns refer to specific, named things (like "Chicago" or "Mt. Kilimanjaro"). Proper nouns are always capitalized, and common nouns are only capitalized at the beginning of sentences.

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  • hopper cool style avatar for user Jett Burns
    Are there examples of common nouns that are proper nouns as well? The same word(s) perhaps?
    (149 votes)
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    • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user trek
      Since English is full of equivocal terms, some common nouns also function as proper nouns. Examples include:

      banks of a river and Mr. Banks
      Mississippi River and that river over there
      a phoenix and River Phoenix
      John and go to the john
      a tax dodge and a Dodge truck
      buffalo and Buffalo, New York

      And don't forget all the units where proper nouns became common nouns:

      Watt and the watt unit of power
      Newton and the newton unit of force
      Coulomb and the coulomb unit of charge
      Ampere and the ampere unit of current
      Ohm and the ohm unit of resistance
      Becquerel and the becquerel unit of radioactivity
      Tesla and the tesla unit of magnetic flux density
      Pascal and the pascal unit of pressure
      Kelvin and the kelvin unit of temperature
      Fahrenheit and the fahrenheit unit of temperature
      Celsius and the celsius unit of temperature
      Hertz and the hertz unit of frequency
      Volt and the volt unit of electric potential
      Curie and the curie unit of radiation
      Ångström and the ångström unit of atomic distances
      Dalton and the dalton unit of atomic mass
      Gauss and the gauss unit of magnetic flux density

      And the list goes on...
      (267 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user well8865
    Why common proper nouns are important?
    (15 votes)
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    • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Polina Vitić
      The most obvious difference between common nouns and proper nouns is that proper nouns are always capitalized.

      Common nouns
      - general
      - not capitalized

      Proper nouns
      - something specific
      - capitalized

      Knowing the difference can be helpful when you are reading, too.

      If you read about "apple" you know it's a fruit.
      But if you read about "Apple" then you realize it's probably the computer company (or possibly someone named Apple).

      More examples:
      - grandmother = any woman who has grandchildren
      - Grandmother = what I call my grandmother

      - cubs = baby bears
      - Cubs = Chicago baseball team

      - beetle = insect
      - Beetle = car made by Volkswagen

      - independence = ability to do things on one's own
      - Independence = city in Missouri & starting point of the Oregon Trail

      - three sisters = female siblings
      - Three Sisters = volcanic peaks in Oregon

      - turkey = bird; meat from the bird, often eaten on Thanksgiving
      - Turkey = country that connects Europe and Asia

      - halo = crown of light
      - Halo = video game; song by Beyoncé

      When you see that a noun is capitalized, it is a great big clue telling you that the noun names something specific, like a person, sports team, car model, city, mountain, country, or even video game!

      And when you are writing, capitalizing proper nouns will help you keep meaning clear, and will also help your readers understand exactly what you mean.

      Hope this helps!
      (68 votes)
  • starky ultimate style avatar for user Jamie Wilson
    Can an idea be a proper noun?
    (14 votes)
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    • leaf orange style avatar for user Benny C
      Sure! There are many examples.

      Take any company, which are just legal entities (ideas) and not physical things.

      Take art concepts like Impressionism and Dadaism. These were art movements (ideas) and not physical things you could touch.

      Take holidays like Christmas or Thanksgiving. These are just certain times of the year, and more of a concept than a tangible thing.

      Take any language.
      (19 votes)
  • starky seed style avatar for user tim20
    In this sentence: Matthew enjoys swimming, how is swimming a common noun if it is telling what specifically matthew enjoys?
    (6 votes)
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    • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user David Rheinstrom
      I've got one; I can thinking of a specific type of swimming.

      So, Tim, what you're looking for is a kind of swimming with a name; that's what makes it proper.

      So if we say "Matt likes swimming," we're using a common noun.

      But if we say, "Matt likes the Australian Crawl," that's a proper noun.
      (13 votes)
  • marcimus pink style avatar for user Racheal Lee
    Is watermelon proper noun or common noun? Because it is kind of fruit but it is not capitalized.
    (2 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Killer Death
    Is Obama is Proper Noun or Common Noun?
    (4 votes)
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  • duskpin sapling style avatar for user HAMSTER
    What's the difference between a common noun and a proper noun?
    (4 votes)
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  • female robot ada style avatar for user cynthia li
    so are common nouns all names, or are there ones that are not names?
    (5 votes)
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  • winston baby style avatar for user POTATORunner
    What if you find a proper noun that is a common noun, too? Would you just do the uppercase if it was the proper noun version and lowercase for the common noun? I guess so.
    Example: If someone was named Cat,(it gets mind-boggling here.)and if Cat had a cat, would it be Cat had a cat, Cat had a Cat, cat had a Cat, or cat had a cat? Please answer.
    (2 votes)
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  • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user MTB man
    Apple is a proper noun but why do we don't capitalize
    the "A"
    (4 votes)
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Video transcript

- [Voiceover] Hello, grammarians. I'd like to bring up the idea of the difference between a common and a proper noun. So the difference between a common and a proper noun is simply the difference between something with a name and a more generic version of that thing. I'll give you a couple of examples right off the bat. So speaking generally, I am from a city. The specific city that I'm from is Chicago. I could talk about a frog generally, but if I were speaking of a specific frog, I would say Kermit. The difference between a common and a proper noun is merely the difference between a general thing, so this side is more general, and a specific thing. It's a continuum. So if you are speaking of, let's see, a river, any old river, that's a common noun, but if you're talking about a specific river, and it's a named river here, that would be the Nile, say. You could talk about a mountain, and that would be a common noun, because there are many mountains, but if you wanted to talk about a specific mountain, say Mount Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania, that's a proper noun. So here are the properties of proper nouns. Proper nouns are always capitalized. And that means that instead of using a little letter A like that, you would instead use a big letter A like that. Common nouns are only capitalized if you find them at the beginning of sentences. So you might say, "Mountains are my favorite." But you would also say, "Kilimanjaro "is my favorite "mountain." And that is a lowercase, non-capitalized M, as opposed to this one, which is uppercase. So that's the difference between common and proper nouns. If you're talking about something general, it's a common noun. If you're talking about something specific, it's a proper noun, and the difference between them is that you capitalize a proper noun. You can learn anything. David out.