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Proper nouns

Proper nouns

Level: beginner

Names of people, places and organisations are called proper nouns. We spell proper nouns with a capital letter:

Muhammad Ali Birmingham China Oxford University the United Nations

We use capital letters for festivals:

Christmas Deepavali Easter Ramadan Thanksgiving

We use capital letters for people's titles:

I was talking to Doctor Wilson recently.
Everything depends on President Obama.

When we give the names of books, films, plays and paintings, we use capital letters for the nouns, adjectives and verbs in the name:

I have been reading The Old Man and the Sea.
Beatrix Potter wrote
The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
You can see the
Mona Lisa in the Louvre.

Level: intermediate

Sometimes we use a person's name to refer to something they have created:

Recently a Van Gogh was sold for 15 million dollars.
We were listening to Mozart.
I'm reading an Agatha Christie.

Proper nouns



Is it correct to write Art or art ? I've seen the former being used in essays that just describe Art.

Hello Petals,

'Art' is a noun like any other and is capitalised in the same way other nouns are. There are no special rules concerning the word. Of course, an author may choose to capitalise certain words for effect, but this is an individual stylistic choice, not standard usage.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks, so could it mean that the author capitalises it to indicate the particular meaning of art that he has in mind ?

Hello Petals,

Yes, that could be. If you want to post the sentence in context here and suggest why you think it is capitalised, we can tell you if we think you're analysing it correctly.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

I have two questions about the people's names used to refer to something they have created.
1) Can we do this in plural? Such as: "I've read many Shakespeares and enjoyed all of them"
2) "We were listening to Mozart." Why this sentence doesn't have an indefinite article? That is: We were listening to a Mozart." Or, if we were listening to more compositions of this author, why not to say: "We were listening to some Mozarts." ?

I was wondering about the names of the seasons.
When do we use capitals and when not to?


Hi Mistycrystaleyes,

You can find the rules for capitalisation on this page.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

My question is upon the differentiation between proper and common nouns.

1) Trademarks. "Kleenex" is a trademark. In "Pass me a Kleenex" is Kleenex a proper noun? Is capitalization correct?

2) Archetypal names. "He was a complete Don Juan with all his affairs". Is Don Juan still a proper noun?

3)"The Red-White-and-Blue Union Jack hung out of every
window." Is the banner a common noun here?

Any help much appreciated.

Hello Ildus,

The names of products often move to general use in English and when they do they cease to refer only to a particular product and are no longer capitalised. Thus, if in your first sentence you are referring simply to a tissue, then there is no need to capitalise.

In your second example we would capitalise. Although the name is used as an adjective here the convention is still to capitalise names of people.

In your third example only 'Union Jack' should be capitalised. The colours are not part of the name and so are simply normal adjectives.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Could anyone tell me, what does "Goyas" mean? The word is taken from the exercise above.
Thank you.