Proper nouns

Nouns used to name a place, a person or the title of something, are known as proper nouns. They are signalled by a capital letter, for example Sam, Wagga Wagga, Olympic Games.

Activity 1 – Modelled

Deconstruct a small variety of sentences on the board. For instance:

  • We watched TV at David’s house.
  • My birthday is in February.

Reinforcing that sentences start with capital letters. Ask:

  1. Where else in a sentence might you expect to find a capital letter? Brainstorm and list as many of these words as possible (between 10 and 20).
  2. Look at your words. Try to group types of words together.
    • Groups include:
      the names of people
      the names of places
      the days of the week
      the names of months
      the names of planets
      the names of companies
      people's titles
      holidays
  3. What are proper nouns? (Answer: proper nouns are the names of particular people, places, days of the week, etc.)

Activity 2 – Guided

Give students examples of sentences that do not use capital letters appropriately and get them to identify where the mistakes are. Begin with capital letters at the beginning of sentences and then include capital letters for proper nouns.

For example:

Circle the letters that should be capitalised.

  • come over here, please.
  • he didn't answer when I asked him a question.
  • no you are not allowed to go.
  • would you like some lunch?
  • i will be late home tonight.
  • have a good day at school.
  • where is your brother?
  • be home by dark.
  • can we play outside?
  • it is time to go home.
  • are you going to kate's house on sunday?
  • we will be spending Christmas day at nana's house.
  • i am going to sleep over at ken's house on saturday night.
  • the nile river is in Egypt.
  • canberra is the capital city of australia.
  • where is peter?
  • mrs jones told ian to sit down.
  • i live in kent street, auburn.
  • my dad works at david jones in the city.
  • mars is called the red planet.

Get students to work in pairs. Each student must make up five sentences that do not use capital letters correctly. They are to swap the sentences with their partner and correct to sentences that they have been given.

Activity 3 – Independent

Students write a short story about people, places and dates. Give the story to a partner to highlight proper nouns and edit if necessary.

Further activities

Visit capital letters for an interactive quiz.


Capitalise proper nouns

Rule 1: Capitalise all personal names (real or fictitious, nickname or substitute for a name, animal or thing). Also, capitalise people’s official or religious titles along with their names BUT use lower case for the generic name (for, example, Everyone has a favourite aunt or uncle.). Always capitalise the personal pronoun ‘I’.

Examples

  • I invited Uncle Bob to meet my husband. My mother came too.
  • Louis XVI was King of France and was the only French king to be executed.
  • Three prime ministers attended the conference, including Prime Minister Pitt.

Rule 2: Capitals are used for calendar items, such as days of the week, months of the year and special days. They are NOT used for seasons.

Examples

  • In Australia, December is in the summer so it does not snow at Christmas.
  • My friend is training for the Winter Olympics. She will train through summer and autumn.

Rule 3: Capitals are used for geographical names, but NOT for directions unless part of a distinctive region.

Examples

  • My sister lives in Brisbane which is on the east coast of southern Queensland
  • The students were mostly from South-East Asia and the Middle East.

Rule 4: Capitals are used for nationality, ethnic groups and religions. You must capitalise Aboriginal and Indigenous these words when referring to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; however, not when they mean ‘native to’

Examples

  • The term ‘Indigenous Australians’ includes Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander peoples
  • Colonialism resulted in the impoverishment of indigenous people all over the globe.

Rule 5: The names of disciplines are NOT capitalised unless it is a language or a course name is followed by a number.

Examples

  • I study education, sociology, history, French and Latin. (LANGUAGE)
  • Those who take Sociology 101 will be tested this Friday. (COURSE NAME)
  • I taught a composite Kindergarten and Year 1 class last year. Luckily, they were all Stage 1. (SPECIFIC TITLES)

Rule 6: Capitals are used for distinctive historical periods.

Examples

  • Many children worked in the coal mines during the Industrial Revolution.
  • The story of Robin Hood originates in Medieval England.

Rule 7: The sun, moon and earth are NOT capitalised UNLESS the word is used in an astronomical context. All planets and stars are proper nouns and start with capital letters.

Examples

  • The planet Earth orbits the Sun, and the Moon orbits the Earth.
  • The largest moons of Jupiter are Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.

Rule 8: The names of institutions and government departments are proper nouns and require capitalisation. If the title starts with the, it typically starts with lower case. Generic words for institutions do not require capitalisation.

Examples

  • The University of New England is a five-star university for student experience.
  • Tom was born in the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney in the summer of 1978.
  • The Labor Party promised more funding to hospitals, schools and universities.
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