English vs. Spanish Capitalization

Most English learners know that we capitalize days of the week, months of the year, countries and cities.  But what about nationalities, languages, titles (of books, movies, etc.), seasons, and religions?  Here is a list of the differences in Spanish and English capitalization!

a) Nationalities
Examples:  Mexican, American, English
These adjectives are capitalized because they are proper adjectives and based on proper nouns, which we capitalize too (Mexican: Mexico; American: America; English: England).   A proper noun names a specific object, while a common noun names a general object.

Here are some examples of proper nouns and common nouns:
Proper Noun              Common Noun
McDonald’s                    fast-food restaurant
Angelina Jolie                actress
Shakespeare                   writer

b) Languages
Examples:  English, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese
Like proper adjectives, the names of languages are capitalized because they’re based on proper nouns (of the country where the language originated).  Remember, if the word is based on a proper noun, we always capitalize it!

Sentence:  In England [country], English [nationality] people speak English [language].

c) Religions
Examples: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Catholicism
Religions are capitalized because they ARE proper nouns (naming something specific and unique) or are proper adjectives (Catholicism=Catholic; Christianity=Christian).

Sentence:  I went to a Catholic school in Chile because my parents are true believers of Catholicism.

d) Titles of Books, Movies, Documents, etc.
Examples:  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The New York Times, One Hundred Years of Solitude
In Spanish, only the first word (and proper nouns) of titles is capitalized (e.g. Cien años de soledad) but in English ALL of the words in a title are capitalized EXCEPT:
-articles (a/an/the)
-coordinate conjunctions (and/or/nor)
-prepositions (of, in, to, between…)

For example, in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the words ‘and’ and ‘the’ are not capitalized because ‘and’ is a coordinate conjunction and ‘the’ is an article.
In One Hundred Years of Solitude, the word ‘of’ is not capitalized because it is a preposition.

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Gabi O’Connor
Gabi is a Pedagogy & Curriculum Fall Associate. She has spent the past several years teaching ESL in Ireland, Spain, France and the U.S., most recently as a Featured/Recommended Tutor for NYC-based startup Tutorspree. Gabi received her BA in English Literature and French Translation at the University of York, her M.Phil. in Popular Literature at Trinity College Dublin, as well as certification from the University of Cambridge TEFL program. Having lived in eleven countries, and learned several languages as a result, she has a passion for expanding her and others’ cultural and language horizons.