The Writing Center

Proper Nouns

Proper nouns refer to particular persons, places, and things by name. They are always capitalized.

Category

Examples

Geographical names

France, the Atlantic Ocean, Chicago, the Amazon River, the Rocky Mountains

Religions and nationalities

Catholicism, Buddhists, Chinese, Islam, Muslims, North Americans, Christianity

Historical or artistic periods and events

World War II, Impressionism, the Middle Ages, the Civil War, the Renaissance

Days, months, or holidays

Labor Day, Thursday, April, New Year’s Eve, the Fourth of July, Easter

Brand or company names

Pepsi-Cola, Sony, the Bank of America, America Express, Quaker Oats, Cadillac

Titles of publications or published work

New York Times (newspaper), War and Peace (novel), “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” (poem)

People (including their titles)

Mr. and Mrs. Bob Jones, Lord Byron, President Lincoln, King James, Senator Black

Couse titles (but not fields of study)

He is taking Philosophy 101. He is studying philosophy.

Articles and Proper Nouns

Generally, you use zero article with singular proper nouns, and “the” with plural ones. For example, France vs. the United States; Mount Everest vs. the Himalayas; Cuba vs. the Bahamas, etc. However, there are many exceptions. Here are some sub-rules that may be helpful:

Rules

Examples

Any name with a prepositional phrase containing will take “the”

the Republic of....
the University of Michigan (vs. Harvard University)
the Gulf of...
the Straits of...
the Isle of Wight (vs. Paradise Island)
the Fourth of July (vs. Thanksgiving)

Oceans, seas, and rivers take “the” Lakes and streets take zero article

I live near the Atlantic Ocean, the Hudson River
I live on Lake Ontario, Mulberry Street, Route 64, Fifth Avenue.

Exceptions: the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the Bro River Parkway

General regions take “the”

 

the South, the Riviera, the East Side, the Artic, the Western Hemisphere

Nouns of nationality use no article when referring to a language
Nouns of nationality take “the” when referring to a people group

Chinese is a difficult language.
The Chinese are an industrious people. Note: The Chinese language is difficult. (Here “Chinese” is acting as an adjective.)

 
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