What is a proper noun? A proper noun is a word that refers to the name of a particular place, person or thing. Proper nouns always begin with a capital letter, no matter where they appear in a sentence.

For example:

  • James went to Spain in August and took his journal with him.

In this sentence, James, Spain and August are proper nouns as they refer to a specific person, place and month. Whereas journal is a common noun.

Both proper nouns and common nouns are examples of concrete nouns. This is because they refer to things which can be physically touched, such as an object, person or place.

Things which cannot be seen or physically touched are called abstract nouns. They are names given to emotions, concepts and ideals. Examples include: knowledge, truth, beauty and kindness.

When do children learn about proper nouns?

Children are taught about capitalising people’s names and place names in Key Stage 1. Teachers might point out proper nouns when they are reading as a class so that children become comfortable with when to use them.

It can also be helpful if children are given a table of examples which demonstrates that proper nouns are specific names of common nouns. For example:

COMMON NOUNS    (GENERAL NAMES)

PROPER NOUNS (SPECIFIC/PERSONAL NAMES)

boy or girl

Fred, Lucy, Owen, Abigail

city or country

London, France, Manchester, England

day or month

Monday, September, January, Thursday

Children could then be asked to add more examples to the table themselves.

What can children struggle with?

Sometimes learning the rules of capitalisation can be confusing for children, as they may start to capitalise words that they see as important in their sentences. But it is important to remind them that a proper noun is written with a capital letter because it is a name or title, not because it is an interesting or important word.

To help children grasp the difference between proper nouns and common nouns, it can be helpful to give them example sentences and ask them to underline the common nouns in blue, and the proper nouns in red. For example:

  • The plumber from London who fixed our bath is called Jack.

The words plumber and bath should be underlined in blue as they are common nouns. The words London and Jack should be underlined in red as they are proper nouns.

How does Learning Street help children with proper nouns?

Learning Street introduces children to proper nouns at the right time and like all our literacy skills work we then go on and extend knowledge and do exercises to enhance accuracy.

One of the key differences between using learning street courses vs books or worksheet sites is that everything is programmed for you. You don’t need to worry about when to introduce a topic what level is right for your child or when to revise it.

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