When To Capitalize Letters in Spanish

Spanish uses lower case more often than English does

Mexico September 16
México celebra su independencia el 16 de septiembre. (Mexico celebrates its independence on September 16.). Victor Pineda / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Spanish uses far fewer capital letters than does English. With only two exceptions — Spanish capitalizes Sol and Luna when they refer to the Earth's sun and moon, respectively — whenever Spanish capitalizes a word, the corresponding word in English is capitalized. But the opposite is far from true; there are numerous instances where English capitalizes that Spanish does not.

What Spanish does capitalize are proper names for people, places, holidays, newspapers, and magazines; abbreviations of personal titles such as Dr. (Dr.), Sr.

(Mr.), Sra. (Mrs.), and Srta. (Miss); and the first word in the titles of books, plays, movies and similar works.

Here are the most common cases where English capitalizes that Spanish does not:

Calendar

Names of the days of the week and months of the year use lower-case letters. Hoy es martes. (Today is Tuesday.) México celebra su independencia el 16 de septiembre. (Mexico celebrates its independence on September 16.)

Composition Titles

In formal written Spanish, titles of movies, books, plays and similar works capitalize only the first word and proper nouns. La guerra de las galaxias ("Star Wars"), Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal ("Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone") Note: In informal written Spanish, and on book covers and movie posters, it is not unusual to see such composition titles capitalized as in English.

Personal Titles

Introductory titles are not capitalized, although common abbreviations of them (such as Sr.

for señor, Dr. for doctor, D. for don and Srta. for señorita) are. ¿Conoces a la señora Wilson? (Do you know Mrs. Wilson?) ¿Conoces a la Sra. Wilson? (Do you know Mrs. Wilson?) La reina Victoria fue mi abuela. (Queen Victoria was my grandmother.)

Religions

Names of religions and their adherents aren't capitalized.

Mi madre es católica. (My mother is Catholic.) Estudio el cristianismo. (I'm studying Christianity.)

Ordinal Numbers

When an ordinal number is used after a name, it isn't capitalized. Luis catorce (Luis the Fourteenth), Carlos octavo (Charles the Eighth.) If Roman numerals are used, they are capitalized.

Place Names

Although the given name of rivers, lakes, mountains and other geographic features are capitalized, the geographical identity is not. No vimos el río Amazonas. (We didn't see the Amazon River.) Vivimos cerca de la montaña Rainier. (We live near Mount Rainier.)

Nationality

Although names of countries and cities are capitalized, words derived from them are not. Soy inglés. (I'm English.) Prefiero los cocos puertorriqueños. (I prefer the Puerto Rican coconuts.)

Languages

Names of languages aren't capitalized. Hablo inglés. (I speak English.) Quiero estudiar alemán. (I want to study German.)

Sample Sentences on Spanish Capitalization

Habí negociaciones de paz entre el gobierno del presidente Juan Manuel Santos y las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia. (There were peace negotiations between the government of Presidente Juan Manual Santos and the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia.

The president's title isn't capitalized, but the formal name of FARC is because it is considered a proper noun.)

Los musulmanes catalanes son más que una comunidad. (Catalonian Muslims are more than a community. References to the geographic origin or religious affiliations of people are not capitalized.)

El río Danubio atraviesa varios países de Europa antes de desembocar en el Mar negro. (The Danube River crosses several European countries before emptying into the Black Sea. Only the given names of the river and sea are capitalized.)

El rey Lear es una tragedia de Shakespeare. King Lear is a Shakespeare tragedy. (Rey is not capitalized, even though it is part of the play title as well as a personal title.)

Herodes murió el año 4 a. de C. (Herod died in 4 B.C. Only the letter standing for the name of a person is capitlized in this abbreviation.

The abbreviation stands for antes de Cristo.)

El doctor Romero es un conocido veterinario de Buenos Aires. El Dr. Romero es un conocide veterinario de Buenos Aires. (Dr. Romero is a well-known Buenos Aires veterinarian. His title is capitalized when abbreviated but not otherwise.)

Herodes murió el año 4 a. de C. (Herod died in 4 B.C. Only the letter standing for the name of a person is capitlized in this abbreviation. The abbreviation stands for antes de Cristo.)

Las Naciones Unidas es una organización internacional formada por 192 países independientes. (The United Nations is an international organization formed by 192 independent countries. Names of organizations are capitalized as in English.)

El budismo es una religión oriental que tiene muchos creyentes occidentales. (Buddhism is an Eastern religion that has many Western believers. Names of religions are not capitalized, even when named after a person. Neither are geographical words such as oriental unless they refer to a specific entity, such as in Europa Oriental for Eastern Europe.)

 

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Erichsen, Gerald. "When To Capitalize Letters in Spanish." ThoughtCo, Dec. 24, 2017, thoughtco.com/capitalization-in-spanish-3080293. Erichsen, Gerald. (2017, December 24). When To Capitalize Letters in Spanish. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/capitalization-in-spanish-3080293 Erichsen, Gerald. "When To Capitalize Letters in Spanish." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/capitalization-in-spanish-3080293 (accessed May 20, 2018).