spanish capitalization

Hold the Capitals: Spanish Capitalization Rules Demystified!

Are you thinking of writing something special in Spanish?

A cover letter for an exciting job opportunity in fabulous Madrid, or maybe a Spanish love note to that special someone in your life?

Well then, hold the capitals!

Written Spanish uses a lot fewer capitals than written English does, so before you grab your pen or put your fingers on the keyboard, read this post so you do not make unnecessary mistakes.

While capitals do serve a purpose, English speakers are accustomed to seeing and writing many—while Spanish speakers are not. This may be a surprise to Spanish language learners when they first begin to read in Spanish. It is an even bigger adjustment for some when they begin to write in Spanish.

Let’s face it. English speakers are pretty used to using capital letters a lot!

So, naturally, you must be wondering when to capitalize in Spanish—and when to go lower case?

No worries! We have got you covered.

The rules are easy to learn! And, once you get accustomed to not writing all those uppercase letters you will be writing like someone born in a Spanish-speaking country.

Let’s check out the rules so you can get started writing proper Spanish with ease!
 


 

Hold the Capitals: Spanish Capitalization Rules Demystified!

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What Spanish Words Not to Capitalize

These words are not capitalized in Spanish writing unless they appear as the first word in a sentence. Remember, the first word of any sentence—in English or in Spanish—is capitalized.

spanish capitalization

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So, not only will you be exposed to Spanish spoken by native Spanish speakers, but you will see how native Spanish-speakers use and do not use capitalizations.

Note that some words use el (the, masculine), la (the, feminine), los (the, plural masculine) and las (the, plural feminine). When those words are used at the beginning of a sentence, el, la, los or las is capitalized rather than the word itself.

For example:

El francés (French)

El catolicismo (Catholicism)

El lunes (Monday)

Months

Diciembre es cuando comienzo mi nuevo trabajo. (December is when I begin my new job.)

Mi nuevo trabajo comienza en diciembre. (My new job begins in December.)

Mayo es el mes con las flores más bonitas. (May is the month with the prettiest flowers.)

Las flores más bonitas florecen en mayo. (The prettiest flowers bloom in May.)

Days of the Week

When the name of a day of the week appears at the beginning of a sentence, el (the) or la (the) will be the capitalized word, as mentioned above. The actual day itself will not be capitalized.

El miércoles es mi día favorito de la semana. (Wednesday is my favorite day of the week.)

Mi día favorito de la semana es el miércoles. (My favorite day of the week is Wednesday.)

El martes el mercado está abierto. (Tuesday the market is open.)

Compro en el mercado abierto el martes. (I shop at the open market on Tuesday.)

Book Titles

spanish capitalization

Book titles are capitalized in English. In Spanish, however, they are not. The first word of a book title is capitalized, though. After that, lower case letters are used to finish off the title.

Leí “La guerra y la paz” el año pasado. (I read “War and Peace” last year.)

“Sé por qué canta el pájaro enjaulado” es mi libro favorito. (“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” is my favorite book.)

Movie Titles

Movie titles are treated the same way as books are in Spanish writing. The first word in the title is capitalized and the following words are all lower-case.

“La bella y la bestia” siempre me hace feliz. (“Beauty and the Beast” always makes me happy.)

“La guerra de las galaxias” es una gran película. (“Star Wars” is a great movie.)

Personal Titles

Personal titles are not capitalized. Notice that when you directly address someone, la or el is not used.

Some personal titles include:

señora (Mrs.)

señor (Mr.)

señorita (Miss)

profesor(a) (professor)

doctor(a) (doctor)

El señor Fuentes es un buen hombre. (Mister Fuentes is a nice man.)

Señor Fuentes, usted es un buen hombre. (Mister Fuentes, you are a nice man.)

La doctora Luisa trabaja el martes. (Doctor Luisa works on Tuesday.)

Doctora Luisa, ¿trabaja el martes? (Doctor Luisa, do you work on Tuesday?)

El profesor Pablo me hace sonreír. (Professor Pablo makes me smile.)

Me hace sonreír, profesor Pablo. (You make me smile, Professor Pablo.)

Places

Vi el gran cañón. (I saw the Grand Canyon.)

Nosotras estamos nadando en el océano atlántico. (We are swimming in the Atlantic Ocean.)

Religions

When the name of a religion appears at the beginning of a sentence, el (the) or la (the) will be the capitalized word, as mentioned above. The actual name of the religion itself will not be capitalized.

Las iglesias católicas en Madrid son muy hermosas. (Catholic churches in Madrid are very beautiful.)

Fui a una hermosa iglesia católica en Madrid. (I went to a beautiful Catholic church in Madrid.)

Languages

El español es un idioma fácil de aprender. (Spanish is an easy language to learn.)

Yo hablo español con mi familia. (I speak Spanish with my family.)

El francés se enseña en las escuelas de Europa. (French is taught in schools in Europe.)

Aprendí a hablar francés cuando vivía en París. (I learned to speak French when I lived in Paris.)

Nationalities

Yo soy colombiano(a). (I am Colombian.)

¡El café colombiano es el mejor del mundo! (Colombian coffee is the best coffee in the world!)

Ordinal Numbers

Ordinal numbers have both masculine and feminine forms in Spanish so they agree with the nouns they describe.

The ordinal numbers are:

primero(a) (first)

segundo(a) (second)

tercero(a) (third)

cuarto(a) (fourth)

quinto(a) (fifth)

sexto(a) (sixth)

séptimo(a) (seventh)

octavo(a) (eighth)

noveno(a) (ninth)

décimo(a) (tenth)

Voy a trabajar el cuarto día del mes. (I go to work on the fourth day of the month.)

El primer auto es muy brillante. (The first car is very shiny.)

Personal Pronoun Yo

The personal pronoun yo (I) is not capitalized unless it begins a sentence. This differs from English, where the pronoun “I” is capitalized wherever it is used.

Yo estoy feliz. (I am happy.)

Luisa y yo fuimos de compras ayer. (Luisa and I went shopping yesterday.)

What Spanish Words to Capitalize

First Word in a Sentence

Like English, Spanish capitalizes the first word in a sentence.

Las primeras palabras son importantes. (First words are important.)

Countries

Voy a vivir en Alemania el año que viene. (I am going to live in Germany next year.)

Mi país favorito es Jamaica. (My favorite country is Jamaica.)

Cities

Mis botas nuevas son de Madrid. (My new boots are from Madrid.)

Su familia vive en Barcelona. (Her family lives in Barcelona.)

Institutions

La Universidad de Harvard es una institución prestigiosa. (Harvard University is a prestigious institution.)

Ella asistió a la Universidad de Estocolmo. (She attended Stockholm University.)

 

Different languages use different writing policies and practices. Not all basic guidelines are the same, as you have learned above.

So, learn the Spanish rules and leave capitals at the door! You will enjoy writing with less fuss once you get used to this uncomplicated style of writing.
 

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