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Published on: Grammar Bites

When do we use capital letters or lower case en español?

Although some uses of capital letters are similar in both English and Spanish, there are some distinct differences as well. Let’s take a look at the uses of capital letters in Spanish!

We use capital letters:
a) At the beginning of a sentence or text:
  • Hoy es un día muy bonito. Today is a lovely day.
b) After a period (.) or ellipsis (…), if they’re used to finish a statement:
  • Hoy no tengo tiempo para hablar. Mañana por la tarde estaré libre. I don’t have time to talk today. I‘ll be free tomorrow afternoon.
  • Hoy no tengo tiempo para hablar… ¿Puedes mañana por la tarde? I don’t have time to talk today… Can you do tomorrow afternoon?
c) When writing proper names (of a person or place):
  • Aquel hombre es Juan Perez. That man’s Juan Perez.
  • ¿Has visitado la Estatua de la Libertad? Have you ever visited the Statue of Liberty?
d) When talking about the specific name of a geographic location:
  • Ella es de Barcelona. She’s from Barcelona.
  • Ellos viven cerca del océano Pacífico. They live near the Pacific ocean.

Notice that words like ciudad, río, lago, mar, oceáno, sierra, cabo, golfo, cordillera, etc are typically written in lower case, unless said word is part of the official name of the location:

  • El Río de la Plata está formado por los ríos Paraná y Uruguay.

In the firt case, ‘Río de la Plata’ is the official name of the river so we have to capitalize the word ‘Río’. In the second case, the rivers are called Paraná and Uruguay, so there’s no need to capitalize the word ‘río’.

e) When talking about the names of local, national, international and/or religious holidays.
  • Nuestra celebración de Navidad comienza en realidad en Noche Buena. Our Christmas celebration actually begins on Christmas Eve.
  • La mayoría de los países celebra el Día del Trabajador el primero de mayo, pero en Estados Unidos se celebra en septiembre. Most countries commemorate Workers’ Day on May 1st, but the United States celebrates it in September.
  • ¿Se celebra el Día de San Valentín en tu país? Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day in your country?

Please note that some holidays include days and months as part of their official name (or to refer to them); in these cases, those days and months will be capitalized exceptionally:

  • ¿Qué se celebra el 4 de julio en Estados Unidos? Es el Día de la Independencia. (Date is not being used to name the holiday.)
  • Nosotros tendremos una fiesta del 4 de Julio. (Date is being used to name the holiday.)
f) When talking about abbreviations for organizations or systems:
  • La ONU (Organización de Naciones Unidad), la OTAN (Organización de Tratado Atlántico Norte), el FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation).
Careful! We do not use capital letters in the following cases; we always use lower case:
a) When talking about days, months, seasons:
  • Hoy es martes 14 de diciembre. Today is Tuesday, December 14.
  • En el hemisferio sur el verano comienza el 21 de diciembre. On the Southern Hemisphere, Summer begins on December 21st.
b) When talking about someone’s or something’s place of origin:
  • Mi familia es italiana. My familiy is Italian.
  • Estos platos son dominicanos. These dishes are Dominican.
Activities for private students & members: