Nouns are one of the nine types of words that make up English grammar. They’re incredibly common – you use them all of the time. You may have heard them referred to as naming words as they are used to identify people, places and things. There are four types of nouns: proper, common, abstract and collective. Today we’re focussing on proper nouns and common nouns.
These are the names of specific (one of a kind) people, places and things, such as: William Shakespeare, London, Thursday. They begin with capital letters no matter where they are placed in the sentence.
These are all other types of people, places and things that are more general, such as: man, city, day. They only begin with a capital letter at the beginning of the sentence otherwise they begin with a lower case letter.
So why do some words seem to be the same but can begin with either a capital letter or lower case letter? (I hear you ask…)
Words like ‘Conservative/conservative’, ‘Bible/bible’ and ‘Catholic/catholic’ for instance. Well, the answer depends on how the word is used.
Conservative/conservative – The name (proper noun) for the political party/reluctant to change (common noun)
Bible/bible – proper noun for the holy book/common noun for any book considered to be an authority on a particular subject
Catholic/catholic – proper noun relating to Roman Catholicism/common noun meaning to be broad minded
Some common nouns can be used in place names where they then become proper nouns e.g. desert, road, river become Gobi Desert, King’s Road, River Thames.
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