I have always believed titles to be proper nouns, so in this question I stated it as an answer "Why We Listen to Music" versus "Why Do We Listen to Music" in title

Somebody has been insisting in comments they are not proper nouns, but as it is a comment and not a proper answer there hasn't been room to expand.

Here is my research: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proper_noun

Current linguistics makes a distinction between proper nouns and proper names; but this distinction is not universally observed

By this strict distinction, because the term noun is used for a class of single words (tree, beauty), only single-word proper names are proper nouns: Peter and Africa are both proper names and proper nouns; but Peter the Great and South Africa, while they are proper names, are not proper nouns.

So some people make a distinction between proper nouns and names, but not everyone does. The name of an article is it's name, so some linguists call these proper names, others call them proper nouns.

  • Shouldn't any noun be applicable individually to multiple members of the class of entity for which that noun stands? With respect to names, we do not say "a For Whom the Bell Tolls" though we do say Is there a 'Mary' here? In a book of recipes, what label would you apply to Nana's Pound Cake?
    – TimR
    May 11, 2018 at 13:49
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    You provide no evidence for "linguists who call the name of an article a proper name". I think that is entirely misguided.
    – Lambie
    May 11, 2018 at 15:02
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    @Lambie please can you provide a full answer please, as you have so much to say on this subject.
    – WendyG
    May 11, 2018 at 15:41
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    I think this is a trivial terminological distinction that might interest some "linguists", but is of no real consequence to anyone learning English. And since it's not a well-recognised distinction, any answers here would be essentially opinions anyway, so the question itself is POB. For what it's worth, I'm with Merriam Webster, where the entry for proper noun says ...called also proper name. May 11, 2018 at 16:07
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    @FumbleFingers Those definitions just reflect the older, less theoretically sound analyses that are still in use by some, but that doesn't mean they're valid analyses or that the terminological distinction doesn't communicate something useful about how words and phrases are put together. There's a reason the distinction is made these days.
    – user230
    May 11, 2018 at 17:43

1 Answer 1


A noun can appear where a object is expected. This works with proper nouns/names, so the answer to your question appears to be yes.

I watched Peter yesterday.

I watched Peter Smith yesterday.

I watched Why Do We Listen to Music yesterday.

With movie titles that are more than a few words, it can be said like this to avoid confusion, of course:

I watched the movie Why Do We Listen To Music yesterday.

As far as whether it's worthwhile to make the distinction between proper nouns and names - I think the below are examples of proper nouns that aren't names:

When do you want the assignment done, Professor?

Yes, Lord, I will complete the task.

I love you, Mom.

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