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In the following sentence, should the word "doctor" be treated as a common noun, or should it begin with a capital letter?

The doctor will see you now.

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  • In the general case, "doctor" is not a proper noun and should not generally be capitalized. With Dr. Who, however, it's more of a proper noun and should be capitalized. I can't quite put my finger on why, hence this is a comment rather than an answer.
    – phoog
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 18:05
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    It it's used as a title or a name, capitalize it; otherwise, don't.
    – deadrat
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 18:58
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    One could argue that "doctor" becomes a proper noun in "Mrs. Smith, Doctor will see you now," but that usage is uncommon in the US (though I believe that it's common in the UK). But when prefaced by "the" (and not part of a longer title), "doctor" is hardly ever a proper noun.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 23:17
  • The usual terminology for a noun that does not get capitalized is "common noun."
    – herisson
    Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 2:17
  • Doctor? Doctor who? Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 14:06

2 Answers 2

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When you can add a surname to the sentence, it should be capitalised;

Doctor Smith will see you now

When it is a job description, (usually prefixed with 'a' or 'the') leave it out;

The doctor will see you now.

Think of 'Doctor' as becoming part of someone's actual name, and so when it's used to address a specific person, treat it like a proper noun.

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It should always be capitalized when abbreviated to Dr., as in Dr. Trump.

It must never be capitalized if it's spelled out and not followed by a surname or Christian name. As in

"The doctor will see you now even though he doesn't really want to."

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    It's always capitalised when used as a prestigious title. 'The Doctor meets his old enemy, the Meddling Monk'. It's just rarely used as a prestigious title in everyday usage. However, Jane Straus, at GrammarBook.com conceded: 6a 'Capitalize a formal title when it is used as a direct address. The more formal the title, the more likely it is to be capitalized. Examples: Will you take my temperature, Doctor? We're sorry to report, Captain, that we're headed for choppy waters. That's what you say, mister. Good afternoon, sweetheart.' Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 23:49

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