Proper Nouns in Spanish

Instructor: Maria Elena Knolle Cano

Maria Elena has taught Spanish and German to learners of all levels in Europe, Asia and Australia and has a Master's degree in Cultural Studies and Communication.

Let's find out what proper nouns are all about in this lesson. We will first briefly learn about nouns, and then learn to distinguish between common nouns and proper nouns.

Nouns

Welcome to the fabulous world of Spanish grammar! First of all, let's get the basics out of the way: Do you know what a noun is? You might remember this from grammar lessons at school, however, let's take a quick look at the definition of a noun in case you've forgotten.

A noun is that part of speech that refers to a person, place, quality, thing, action, or idea. Feel like a few examples couldn't hurt? Here you go:

Nouns in action can consist of:

  • a person - in the sentence El hombre va a dormir (The man is going to sleep) the noun would be - you guessed it- hombre (man).
  • a place - in the phrase El parque es precioso (The park is beautiful) the noun is parque (park).
  • a quality - in the sentence La suavidad de la almohada es deliciosa, (The cushion's softness is delightful) suavidad (softness) is the noun we are looking for.

Got it? Awesome, let's take a step closer towards unraveling the mystery of proper nouns. Just like in English, nouns in Spanish may be categorized as common or proper, count or mass, singular or plural. Unlike in English, Spanish nouns are also categorized as either masculine or feminine.

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Common Nouns Versus Proper Nouns

Common nouns refer to a class of entities - no, no alien entities from unexplored planets! We are talking about nouns that describe classes of cities, planets, corporations and so on. These nouns represent unspecific, non-unique nouns.

Proper nouns are basically the opposite of common nouns. A proper noun is a noun that refers to a unique entity, a unique representation of the common noun, such as Paris, a unique city, Anna, a unique name, or Mars, a unique planet.

Example Sentences

Let's see some examples. The common or proper nouns are in bold:

Common noun Proper noun
Mucha gente quiere trabajar como cantante (Many people want to work as a singer) Rihanna canta maravillosamente (Rihanna's singing is amazing)
Me encantaría tener un perro (I would love to own a dog) Caramelo es el cachorro mas lindo del mundo (Cachorro is the cutest puppy in the world)
Vámonos a la ciudad que nunca duerme (Let's go to the city that never sleeps) Vámonos a Madrid (Let's go to Madrid)
Hay tantos planetas en la galaxía (There are so many planets in the galaxy) Venus se ve muy bien esta noche (Venus can be spotted easily tonight)
Su novio es una persona muy leal (Her boyfriend is a very loyal person.) Roberto y ella ya llevan juntos mucho tiempo. (Roberto and her have already been together for a long time)
La moda del momento no me atrae mucho ( I am not that much into current fashion) No puedo vivir sin comprarme algo de Versace (I can't live without buying something from Versace)
Me encantan los dulces (I love sweets) Soy adicta a los Oreos ( I am addicted to Oreos)

There are two crucial things to remember when dealing with proper nouns:

  1. Proper nouns are always specific, naming a one-of-a-kind item.
  2. Proper nouns always begin with capital letters.

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