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What are proper adjectives?

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In English most nouns are common nouns: house, car, grass, and dentist.

Other types of nouns are proper nouns (or real nouns).

Real nouns start with a capital letter: Spain, Brad, and Pizza Hut.

What are proper adjectives?

This is the same with adjectives.

Most adjectives are common adjectives: slow, modern, red, and exciting.

Proper adjectives start with a capital letter: Spanish, Martian, and Russian.

Proper adjectives are usually derived (formed) from proper nouns.

Spain = Spanish

Mars = Martian

Russia = Russian

Shakespeare = Shakespearean

Prefixes and hyphens with proper adjectives

Do not use a capital letter with a prefix used with a proper adjective unless the prefix comes from a proper noun.

pre-Christian influence

pan-European culture

post-Thatcherite Britain

Afro-Caribbean (here Afro comes from Africa so we capitalise it)

In a hyphenated word, only the proper adjective is capitalised.

English-speaking country

Proper adjective example sentences

She works in a Mexican restaurant.

The house was built during the Victorian era.

A Machiavellian battle for control of the country.

Her new Sony television. (here the brand name acts as a adjective)

Now decide if these these sentences need common or proper adjectives:

  • 1) He's wearing a bright ___ shirt.

  • 2) She had a ___ boyfriend.

  • 3) The article described him as a real ___ man.

  • 4) It was a beautiful ___ morning.

  • 5) He's reading some ___ teachings.

  • 6) There's an ____ gentleman to see you.

  • 7) He wore an ___ style costume.