Capital letters in Spanish are called “Mayúsculas”. Overall, the rules of capitalization are very similar in English and in Spanish. Although there are some important differences.
Capitalization in Spanish
In Spanish capital letters are used in three basic ways:
1. To indicate the beginning of a sentence.
The first rule should be pretty clear. Be sure to capitalize the first word of every new sentence. Just as you do in English and as you can see in the examples in this lesson.
2. To distinguish proper names.
- The second rule, which deals with proper names, is also pretty similar in English and in Spanish. Names of people, cities, and countries are capitalized in both languages:
Me llamo Andrés Vargas (My name is Andres Vargas).
Vivo en Buenos Aires, la capital de Argentina (I live in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina).
- Brand names are also considered proper names:
Prefiero las zapatillas de deportes marca Nike (I prefer Nike sneakers).
3. In titles of books, movies, lectures, and so on; in headers.
However, the third rule of capitalization isn’t exactly identical in English and Spanish. In English, we generally capitalize most of the words in a title or header (the exceptions being prepositions shorter than six letters and articles, although these rules may vary). In Spanish, only the first word of the header or title is capitalized:
El autor de la novela Cien años de soledad es Gabriel García Márquez (The author of the novel A Hundred Years of Solitude is Gabriel García Márquez).
¿Has visto la película Todo sobre mi madre? (Have you seen the movie All About My Mother?)
When you don’t have to use capital letters in Spanish
This pretty much takes care of capitalization in Spanish. Although we have additional capitalization rules in English, none of them apply in Spanish.
- In Spanish, the days of the week are written in lowercase letters: lunes, martes, miércoles, jueves, viernes, sábado, domingo (Monday, Tuesday, and so on).
Hoy es domingo (Today is Sunday).
- The same is true of the twelve months of the year: enero, febrero, marzo, abril, mayo, junio, julio, agosto, septiembre, octubre, noviembre, diciembre (January, February, and so on).
Mi cumpleaños es el 13 de agosto (My birthday is on 13rd August).
- Don’t capitalize on languages and nationalities:
Yo soy rusa. Hablo ruso, inglés y español (I am Russian. I speak Russian, English, and Spanish).
- Neither do it with names of religions:
La religión más común entre los latinos es el catolicismo (The most common religion among Latinos is Catholicism).
- Cardinal points: norte, sur, este y oeste are written with lowercase letters (minusculas) , except when they are part of the name of a place.
Valladolid está al norte de Madrid (Valladolid is north of Madrid).
Carolina del Norte es un estado sureño (North Carolina is a southern state).
Capitalization and Spanish titles and abbreviations
- In Spanish, title abbreviations like (Mr.) and Dr. (Dr.) are written with capital letter, but written out titles are not: señor García, doctor Sánchez, doctora Flores. Also note that for the feminine title doctora, the abbreviation is Dra.
- Abbreviations of cardinal points are also used with capital letters: N. S. E. O.
Do you want to learn more about abbreviations (abreviaturas) and acronym (siglas) in Spanish?
Finally, don’t forget to follow Profesor Pardino tip about accent marks in Spanish.