Capital Letters in English - Rules and Examples

i LiKe leArnInG eNglIsH. Does this sentence look right to you? What do you think is the problem? You guessed it right. The capitalisation of the sentence is not right. There are specific rules in the English language for each and every grammatical component and so is the case with the usage of capital letters. This article will provide you with everything you need to know about capitalisation and its rules along with examples. Go through them and analyse how it is done. Also, try out the practice exercise to check how far you have understood the rules of capitalisation.

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When and Where to Use Capital Letters? – Rules of Capitalisation with Examples

Not many languages have the concept of using capital letters. The English language, however, has capital letters and small letters, and there are specific rules to direct the users of the language on how and where to use them. To make your learning easier, here are the rules of capitalisation along with examples to show you how each rule is applied.

Rule 1: Capital Letters in the Beginning of a Sentence

The first and foremost rule of capitalisation is the mandatory use of capital letters to start a sentence. All you need to remember is that every time you start a new sentence, irrespective of what part of speech the first word is and which punctuation mark (full stop/question mark/exclamation mark) is used at the end of the sentence, make sure you start with a capital letter.

For example:

This is Nithya Sree. She is twenty-five years old. She is a teacher.

Rule 2: Capitalising the Pronoun ‘I’

As far as the pronoun ‘I’ is concerned, remember that it is always capitalised, irrespective of where it is used in a sentence.

For example:

  • I am a seventh-grade student.
  • Mia, Nalini and I are planning to go on a trip.

Rule 3: Capitalising Proper Nouns and Names

Proper nouns are those nouns that name a person, place, things, days, months, languages, nationalities, ideas, days and events of historical importance, etc. All proper nouns, no matter where it is placed in a sentence, have to be capitalised.

Capitalise names of people and places.

For example:

  • The Eiffel Tower is situated in Paris.
  • Veena and Nandana were in-charge of the Teacher’s Day celebrations.
  • The Nile river is the longest river in Africa.

Capitalise names of scientific theories, inventions, historical events and geographical discoveries.

  • Newton’s Third Law of Motion is highly relatable.
  • The Jallianwala Bagh massacre is one of the saddest and most cruel events that happened in the pre-Independence era.
  • The first satellite launched by India was named ‘Aryabhatta’ after the famous mathematician and astronomer.

Capitalise words like mom, dad, grandma, grandfather, etc. only when they are used as a form of direct address or in place of the person’s name and not when they are used as common nouns.

For example:

  • Do you think Dad will approve this?
  • I feel Grandpa will be happy to see you.
  • My mom made my favourite dish for dinner.
  • The president represents a nation.
  • Do you think the Prime Minister will bring changes to the tax system?

Capitalise honorifics such as Mr, Mrs, Ms, etc. used as titles with surnames and abbreviations such as Dr, St, Sr, Fr, etc.

For example:

  • Mr. Ramakrishnan was elected as the vice president of the drama club.
  • Dr. Aaron Glassman is a well-experienced neuro-surgeon.
  • The feast of St. Thomas falls on the 3rd of July.
  • Do you know where we can find Mrs. Stevenson?

Rule 4: Capitalising Days, Months, Holidays

Capitalise names of days, months and holidays but not seasons.

  • All of us have been asked to come dressed up in ethnic wear on Wednesday.
  • There are many public holidays in the month of September.
  • We will have a holiday for Christmas.
  • It is summer in London now.

Rule 5: Capitalising Names of Languages

Most people feel the need to capitalise the names of subjects such as science, maths, history, etc. as well because of this rule, but remember that only names of languages have to be capitalised. Names of subjects are to be capitalised only when they are used in the beginning of a sentence.

For example:

  • I speak English, Spanish, French and German.
  • Mathematics is an interesting subject.
  • Carol chose computer science, physics, chemistry and maths as his higher secondary major.

Rule 6: Capitalising Names of Cities, Countries, Nationalities and Geographical Locations

Always capitalise the names of cities, countries, nationalities and other geographical locations (including names of seas, oceans, valleys, hills, mountains, etc.)

For example:

  • We visited New Delhi on the way back from Leh.
  • The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was one of the superpowers during World Wars I & II.
  • There would not be a person who has never wished to see the Niagara waterfalls.
  • I wish to climb Mount Everest at least once in my life.
  • Silent Valley is one of the main tourist attractions in Kerala.

Rule 7: Capitalising Time Periods and Significant Eras in History

Remember that you also have to capitalise important eras in history and time periods in sentences. In addition to this, see to it that you do not capitalise centuries. Take a look at the following examples.

  • The Prehistoric Age consists of five time periods – Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Chalcolithic and Iron Age.
  • The Elizabethan era was known for the advancements in art, theatre and literature.
  • There were a lot of scientific discoveries in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Rule 8: Capitalising Titles

Capitalising titles is one of the most confusing areas for many English language users. Not every word in a title has to be capitalised. The first word of the title has to be capitalised. Other than that, all nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs and adjectives have to start with a capital letter. Also make sure you do not capitalise articles, prepositions or conjunctions unless they happen to be the first word or the last word in the title, according to most style guides.

For example:

  • Have you read ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’?
  • I wrote a paragraph on ‘Time Is Money’.
  • The teacher asked us to speak a few words about ‘Keeping the City Clean and Tidy’.

Check Your Understanding of Capitalisation Rules in English

Go through the following sentences and use capital letters wherever necessary.

1. jawaharlal nehru was the first ever prime minister of india.

2. we met fr. benedict on our way to arunachal pradesh.

3. my brother, danny and i enjoy going on road trips.

4. the smallest planet in the solar system is mercury.

5. have you seen the sun today?

6. teena said that she has read ‘the tale of two cities’ more than five times.

7. i loved learning about greek mythology.

8. my friends gina, sherin and trinita stayed over at my house yesterday.

9. have you visited the taj mahal?

10. we have a holiday on thursday.

Check the answers for the above exercise to find out if you have used capital letters in all the right places.

1. Jawaharlal Nehru was the first ever prime minister of India.

2. We met Fr. Benedict on our way to Arunachal Pradesh.

3. My brother, Danny and I enjoy going on road trips.

4. The smallest planet in the solar system is Mercury.

5. Have you seen the Sun today?

6. Teena said that she has read ‘The Tale of Two Cities’ more than five times.

7. I loved learning about Greek mythology.

8. My friends Gina, Sherin and Trinita stayed over at my house yesterday.

9. Have you visited the Taj Mahal?

10. We have a holiday on Thursday.

Frequently Asked Questions on Capitalisation Rules in English

What do you mean by capitalisation?

The term ‘capitalisation’ refers to the use of capital letters in a sentence.

When and where do we use capital letters in English?

In the English language, capital letters are used for the following,

  • To start a sentence
  • For the pronoun ‘I’
  • To represent proper nouns such as names of people, places, historical monuments, seas, rivers, oceans, mountains, hills, valleys, days, month, ideas, cities, countries, nationalities, languages, etc.
  • In honorifics, titles, etc.

Give five examples of sentences using capital letters.

Here are five examples of sentences using capital letters for your reference.

  • Theo is my neighbour.
  • I read the Times of India everyday.
  • Dharani has visited the Andaman and Nicobar Islands thrice.
  • My birthday falls in the month of July and my sister’s birthday in the month of December.
  • Dr. Yashodha Sukumaran will be conducting a workshop on women’s health.