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There are many cases where English uses capital letters (e.g. January) but Spanish uses lowercase (e.g. enero). Grammar or orthography books have long lists of all the cases where capital letters are used. But I thought it would be useful to see a comparison between capitalization rules in English and Spanish?

What are the cases where English uses capital letters but Spanish uses lowercase (e.g. months, days of the week)? I assume it is a relatively short list.

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4 Answers 4

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Based from here:

  • Calendar (days of the week and months)

    Hoy día es martes. Today is Tuesday.

  • Composition titles

    La guerra de las galaxias. Star Wars.

  • Personal titles (Note that abbrevations of personal titles are capitalized: Sr., Sra., Dr.)

    ¿Está comiendo la señora Smith? Is Mrs. Smith eating?
    La reina Victoria fue mi abuela. Queen Victoria was my grandmother.

  • Religions

    Mi madre es católica. My mother is Catholic.

  • Ordinal numbers (after a name)

    Luis XIV. Luis the Fourteenth.

  • Place names

    Vivimos cerca de la montaña Rainier. We live near Mount Rainier.

  • Nationalities

    Soy chino. I'm Chinese.

  • Languages

    Él habla polaco. He speaks Polish.

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1  
though it's correct just point out that the ordinals after the names are 99% of times written like: "Luis XIV" instead of "Luis catorce" –  Juanillo Feb 13 '12 at 18:52
    
I might have chosen “el río Guadalquivir” instead of Mount Rainier for an example. And those aren’t exactly pure toponyms. It’s when it has a geographic feature attached to it, like “el mar Mediterráneo”, where the name itself is a proper name and thus capitalized, but the geologic feature is not. –  tchrist Feb 19 '12 at 16:15

Months and week days

  • Today is Monday. (Hoy es lunes.)
  • Why is February the shortest month? (¿Por qué febrero es el mes más corto?)

Nationalities, languages and religions

  • He's French. (Él es francés.)
  • Jacob speaks Spanish. (Jacob habla español.)
  • Ana is Catholic (Ana es católica)

Titles in works

In Spanish, titles have the same rules as ordinary language, capitalizing only the first word with the exception of proper names that always are capitalized, while English capitalizes every word except prepositions and articles (unless the final word that always is capitalized no matter what morphological case.)

  • His favorite play is A Midsummer Night’s Dream. (Su obra favorita es El sueño de una noche de verano.)
  • I'm reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. (Estoy leyendo Alguien voló sobre el nido del cuco.)

Much more information in RAE site: (MAYÚSCULAS)

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+1 for the answer, I think the uses in dates, languages and nationalities are the most common in which you can see this difference. However, titles in books, magazines or printed works in general are a different thing. For example, a publication might have its own styling guidelines and require capital letters in titles of chapters, but not sections. When used consistently, it is not necessarily harmless or really disrespectful of the rules. –  Janoma Feb 7 '12 at 20:34
    
Thanks. Concerning the titles in books, with the exception of the cover when there may be a design constrain, there is actually a rule for capitalize only the 1st letter (except when the capital is required besides the fact is a title.) «Uso de las mayúsculas». Nueva ortografía de la lengua española, 2010. p.6. <tinyurl.com/yld76om>; –  pferor Aug 22 '12 at 19:30

To expand a bit on the issue of geographic names, rule §4.7 in the Diccionario panhispánico de dudas explains:

Los nombres comunes genéricos que acompañan a los nombres propios geográficos (ciudad, río, mar, océano, sierra, cordillera, cabo, golfo, estrecho, etc.) deben escribirse con minúscula: la ciudad de Panamá, el río Ebro, la sierra de Gredos, la cordillera de los Andes, el cabo de Hornos. Solo si el nombre genérico forma parte del nombre propio, se escribe con mayúscula inicial: Ciudad Real, Río de la Plata, Sierra Nevada, los Picos de Europa. También se escriben con inicial mayúscula algunos de estos nombres genéricos cuando, por antonomasia, designan un lugar único y, por lo tanto, funcionan a modo de nombre propio. Estas antonomasias están lógicamente limitadas en su uso a la comunidad de hablantes que comparten una misma geografía, para los que la identificación de la referencia es inequívoca, como ocurre, por ejemplo, entre los chilenos, con la Cordillera (por la cordillera de los Andes) o, entre los españoles, con la Península (por el territorio peninsular español) o el Estrecho (por el estrecho de Gibraltar). El hecho de escribir Península Ibérica con mayúsculas se debe a que con esta expresión nos referimos a una entidad de carácter histórico-político, y no a un mero accidente geográfico.

I strongly recommend reading the entire section on Mayúsculas for more details about all using majuscules (meaning uppercase) in Spanish.

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2  
Just learned a new English word... majuscule :) –  jrdioko Feb 20 '12 at 1:20

Never forget this one : the Personal pronoun I is always capitalized in English, but yo is not always capitalized in Spanish.

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