An ELT Glossary : Proper nouns

Proper nouns are those which name one specific entity - eg : Karen, Microsoft, France, etc. 

They may be :

  • Names/Titles given to people : David, Dr. Watson, Mummy, 
  • Names given to animals, houses, roads, boats etc  : Rex,  The Titanic, Loch Ness, Flamsteed Road, Rose Cottage, Buckingham Palace
  • Calendar items - January, Monday, Independence Day
  • Geographical places and features - Europe, Scotland, Edinburgh, Greenwich, Mount Everest, Loch Ness
  • Organisations, businesses etc - Oxfam, Microsoft, The United Nations
  • Newspapers and Periodicals - The Guardian, Newsweek, Cosmopolitan, The British Medical Journal, Gardener's World

They differ from common nouns in that :

a) The word or words which make up the name, start with a capital letter : John Davies, South Africa

b) They are generally used without an article - Karen lives in Barry, in Wales, where she works for Microsoft. There are, however, many exceptions to this rule including :

  • some names with an adjectival component : the European Union, the Midwest
  • plural names : The Himalayas, the Johnsons, the Bahamas
  • oceans, seas, rivers, canals  : The Atlantic, the Baltic, the Thames, the Panama Canal
  • some newspapers and other periodicals : The Guardian, The Times
  • some hotels, theatres, museums and other public places : the Hilton, the Criterion Theatre, the Tate Gallery
An article will also be used to distinguish one specific individual from another with the same name if there is the possibility of confusion : I was talking about the Greenwich in London, not the Greenwich in New York.