1. "I saw the elephant at the zoo."
  2. "I saw elephants at the zoo."

In sentence 1, is the word the elephant denote a proper noun and in sentence 2, is elephants denoting common noun?

Note: Please visit the link (Definite article section) -https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/540/01/

  • What explanation from that link makes you think it is, or is not, being used as the kinds of nouns you're asking about? Mar 17, 2016 at 9:20
  • Hi John, I would like to clear my doubts about the type of NOUN these are. "the elephant" is proper noun and in 2nd sentence, "elephant" is a common noun. Please help me if I'm wrong.
    – Tapan Bera
    Mar 17, 2016 at 9:31
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    You need to find what "proper" noun means searching the internet or looking up the dictionary. The word elephant can never be a proper noun unless it is a name of a person or place. Do you know what "proper noun" means?
    – user24743
    Mar 17, 2016 at 9:52
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    I find myself wondering if Tapan is confusing definite article naming (talking about a specific instance of a thing) for proper nouns. Mar 17, 2016 at 10:06
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    @TapanBera ~ it would be a great help if you could explain which part of the link provided makes you think 'the elephant' is a proper noun, because I see nothing on that page to suggest it is. It would also help if you could tell us what you think a proper noun is, as that seems to be your problem here. In the meantime I will have to vote to close as the question doesn't make any sense as it stands. Mar 17, 2016 at 13:23

1 Answer 1


Proper nouns are those which refer to people's and animals' names, organisation names, institutions like the Internet, months of the year, and many others. To sum up, the words whose writing is mandatory to be capitalised.

"The elephant" in your case is not a proper noun because I assume it's not the name of the elephant, it's just the species it belongs to. I believe in your sentences that "the elephant" was used to mean that there was only one elephant in the whole zoo, and "elephants" means that there was more than one.

But both are common nouns.