Learning about Proper Adjectives in a New York Minute

A “proper adjective” does not refer to a correct adjective in a sentence (because there often isn’t just one correct adjective). It  is one that, being or deriving from a proper name, always begins with a capital letter. Here are some examples of a proper adjective:

  • a New York minute
  • a Cuban cigar
  • a Canadian dollar

The proper name used attributively (meaning the adjective is describing the noun, essentially)  is still capitalized, but it does not cause the noun it modifies to be capitalized. A place-name containing a comma—such as Toronto, Ontario, or New Delhi, India—should generally not be used as an adjective because a second comma may be deemed obligatory. For example if you say “We ate dinner in a Chicago, Illinois, restaurant,” the comma after Illinois is somewhat awkward. Better to reword to something like “We ate dinner in a restaurant in Chicago, Illinois.” Or ‘We ate dinner in a Chicago restaurant.”

2 Responses to “Learning about Proper Adjectives in a New York Minute”

  1. Dana McNeely January 11, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

    I had never heard of proper adjectives! You are so smart! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • cslakin January 11, 2013 at 1:01 pm #

      I imagine there are all sorts of improper ones too, but best we avoid those, right?

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