When Do You Use Capital Letters in English?

The rules for capitalization are very different from language to language, and understanding the rules when learning another language will help your reading comprehension and writing.

Here are some quick rules for when you use capital letters in English.

1. Capitalize the first word of every sentence. When quoting someone who is using a full sentence, capitalize the first letter of that sentence, too.

  • She said, "This is a correctly capitalized sentence."

2. The names of people, places (cities, towns, states, countries), nationalities/languages need to be capitalized. If it is related to a specific place, then you should capitalize it.

  • David, from Spain, also speaks Italian and German.

3. Proper nouns, such as the names of people, specific places (such as Mt. Fuji, the Atlantic Ocean, the Taj Mahal) need to be capitalized. You don't need to do it for generic places, such as a mountain or a river.

  • The Science Museum is on Exhibition Street in London. (vs) The museum is on a small street.
  • Let's take a bout tour on the river this weekend. (vs) Let's take a boat tour on the Nile River this weekend.

4. Capitalize titles of publications, TV programs and movies. Note: Don't capitalize the articles or prepositions, unless they begin the title.

  • Did you see Leonardo DiCaprio in The Quick and the Dead?
  • She reads every issue of Vogue magazine.

5. The pronoun "I" but not the "me" form.

  • How did you know that I like ballet? (vs) These tickets mean so much to me.

(If you want to learn more about how to use "I" and "me", check out our Quick English lesson.)

Capitalization Tip:

If you are not sure whether or not to capitalize, here are 3 questions to ask yourself.

1. Is this the first letter in a sentence?
yes = capitalize

2. Am I using a name that someone gave to this thing or person?
yes = capitalize

3. Is it the pronoun "I"?
yes = capitalize

 Test your knowledge on capitalization. Choose which word or words in the following sentences should be capitalized. You can check your answers in the English Activities Answer Key.
1. my best friend's name is eve.
2. Could you tell me how to get to the eiffel tower?
3. Have i told you lately that i love you?
4. her favorite book series is the lord of the rings.
5. Alan said, "it's only fair that you invite us both to the party."
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