Proper Nouns

Your name is a proper noun. A proper noun is the special word that we use for a person, place or organization, like John, Marie, London, France or Sony. A name is a noun, but a very special noun - a proper noun. English proper nouns have special rules.

common noun proper noun
man, boy John
woman, girl Mary
country, town England, London
company Ford, Sony
shop, restaurant Amazon, Subway
month, day of the week January, Sunday
book, film War and Peace, Titanic

Capital Letters with Proper Nouns

RULE: We always use a Capital Letter for the first letter of a name or proper noun. This includes names of people, places, companies, days of the week and months. For example:

  • They like Anthony. (not They like anthony.)
  • I live in England.
  • She works for Sony.
  • The last day in January is a Monday.
  • We saw Titanic in the Odeon Cinema.
In normal grammatical writing, there are NO exceptions to this rule. Sometimes, however, for stylistic reasons, people may choose to ignore the rule to give their writing a unique or "modern" look. This is typically seen in advertisements or company logos. For correct writing, and especially in exams, we recommend that you observe the rule without fail.

Proper Nouns without THE

We do not use "the" with names of people. For example:

first names Bill (not the Bill)
surnames Clinton
full names Hilary Gates

We do not normally use "the" with names of companies. For example:

  • Renault, Ford, Sony, EnglishClub (not the EnglishClub)
  • General Motors, Air France, British Airways
  • Warner Brothers, Brown & Son Ltd
If the full (registered) name of a company starts with "The", then we use "The" if we use the full name, for example:
  • The Post Publishing Public Co., Ltd
In this case, "The" is part of the company's name and must be capitalised, like all names.

We do not normally use "the" for shops, banks, hotels etc named after a founder or other person (with -'s or -s). For example:

shops Harrods, Marks & Spencer, Macy's
banks Barclays Bank
hotels, restaurants Steve's Hotel, Joe's Cafe, McDonald's
churches, cathedrals St John's Church, St Peter's Cathedral

We do not normally use "the" with names of places. For example:

towns Washington (not The Washington), Paris, Tokyo
states, regions Texas, Kent, Eastern Europe
countries England, Italy, Brazil
continents Asia, Europe, North America
islands Corsica
mountains Everest

Exception! If a country name includes "States","Kingdom", "Republic" etc, we use "the":

states the United States, the US, the United States of America, the USA
kingdom the United Kingdom, the UK
republic the French Republic

We do not use "the" with "President/Doctor/Mr etc + Name":

the president, the king President Bush (not the President Bush)
the captain, the detective Captain Kirk, Detective Colombo
the doctor, the professor Doctor Well, Dr Well, Professor Dolittle
my uncle, your aunt Uncle Jack, Aunt Jill
  Mr Gates (not the Mr Gates), Mrs Clinton, Miss Black

Look at these example sentences:

  • I wanted to speak to the doctor.
  • I wanted to speak to Doctor Brown.
  • Who was the president before President Kennedy?

We do not use "the" with "Lake/Mount + Name":

the lake Lake Victoria
the mount Mount Everest

Look at this example sentence:

  • We live beside Lake Victoria. We have a fantastic view across the lake.

We do not normally use "the" for roads, streets, squares, parks etc:

streets etc Oxford Street, Trenholme Road, Fifth Avenue
squares etc Trafalgar Square, Oundle Place, Piccadilly Circus
parks etc Central Park, Kew Gardens

Many big, important buildings have names made of two words (for example, Kennedy Airport). If the first word is the name of a person or place, we do not normally use "the":

people Kennedy Airport, Alexander Palace, St Paul's Cathedral
places Heathrow Airport, Waterloo Station, Edinburgh Castle

Proper Nouns with THE

We normally use "the" for country names that include "States","Kingdom", "Republic" etc:

States the United States of America/the USA
Kingdom the United Kingdom/the UK
Republic the French Republic

We normally use "the" for names of canals, rivers, seas and oceans:

canals the Suez Canal
rivers the River Nile, the Nile
seas the Mediterranean Sea, the Mediterranean
oceans the Pacific Ocean, the Pacific

We normally use "the" for plural names of people and places:

people (families, for example) the Clintons
countries the Philippines, the United States
island groups the Virgin Islands, the British Isles
mountain ranges the Himalayas, the Alps

Look at these sentences:

  • I saw the Clintons today. It was Bill's birthday.
  • Trinidad is the largest island in the West Indies.
  • Mount Everest is in the Himalayas.

We normally use "the" with the following sorts of names:

hotels, restaurants the Ritz Hotel, the Peking Restaurant
banks the National Westminster Bank
cinemas, theatres the Royal Theatre, the ABC Cinema
museums the British Museum, the National Gallery
buildings the White House, the Crystal Palace
newspapers the Daily Telegraph, the Sunday Post
organisations the United Nations, the BBC, the European Union

We normally use "the" for names made with "of":

  • the Tower of London
  • the Gulf of Siam
  • the Tropic of Cancer
  • the London School of Economics
  • the Bank of France
  • the Statue of Liberty