German Capitalization: 7 Capitalization Rules in German for Nouns & Pronouns

Unlike in English, German has some – on first sight – strange capitalization rules. In English, only proper nouns and the first word of a sentence are capitalized, but German capitalization is totally different.

Don’t be afraid, it’s just as logical as the rest of the German language! And since German nouns are a big part of these rules, it’s time to learn the most common ones. Language Hobo made 3 great videos on the most common German nouns – for feminine, neutral & masculine nouns. Check the first one now!

In this blog post, you’ll find how you can follow these rules without much thinking, and of course, we’ll give you some tips and tricks to tackle this not-so-hard challenge.

Los geht’s! (Let’s go!)

What do you capitalize in German?

Just like we mentioned, German capitalization is a little bit different compared to capitalization rules in English.

Capitalization has its own rules in German, and with it, you can differentiate parts of the speech and written text easily. It’s actually a great grammar thing – one that you might find missing in other languages when you advanced in your German language learning journey!

german capitalization illustration with an open book

In German, you capitalise:

  1. German nouns
  2. German pronouns (in some cases)
  3. Adjectives derived from proper nouns
  4. The beginning of a sentence
  5. Titles and headings
  6. Nationalities and languages
  7. Quoted texts

And, let’s explore all of these. One by one.

1. Capitalization of German Nouns

Effortless Answers

One of the most fundamental capitalization rules in German is that all nouns are capitalized, regardless of their position in the sentence.

This rule applies to concrete nouns (e.g., der Apfel, die Katze, das Buch), abstract nouns (e.g., die Liebe, der Mut, die Freundschaft), and proper nouns (e.g., Berlin, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, der Rhein).

Unlike English, where only proper nouns and the first noun in a sentence are capitalized, in German, all nouns, whether singular or plural, are capitalized.

Let’s take a look at the examples, and observe the German capitalization rules:

  • Ich lese gern Bücher. (I like to read books.)
  • Die Katzen spielen im Garten. (The cats are playing in the garden.)

It’s important to note that this rule also applies to compound nouns, where all the nouns within the compound are capitalized:

  • das Haustor (the house door)
  • der Fußballplatz (the football field)
  • der Schreibtisch (the writing desk)
  • die Bahnhofsuhr (the train station clock)

2. Do you capitalize German pronouns?

In German, most pronouns are not capitalized, except for the formal “you” pronoun “Sie” and its respective possessive determiners “Ihr/Ihre.”

These pronouns are capitalized as a sign of respect in formal contexts.

Check these examples:

  • Haben Sie eine Frage? (Do you have a question?)
  • Ist das Ihre Tasche? (Is that your bag?)

However, it’s important to note that the informal “du” pronoun and its possessive determiner “dein/deine” are NOT capitalized in German.

3. Adjectives derived from proper nouns in German

Adjectives derived from proper nouns, like names of places, languages or nationalities (more on that later), are capitalized in German.

This rule helps to differentiate these adjectives from regular adjectives.

Like this:

  • die deutsche Sprache (the German language)
  • das bayerische Bier (Bavarian beer)
  • die französische Küche (French cuisine)

4. Learn German capitalization at the beginning of a sentence

In this case, German is similar to English and to most of the other languages around the world. The first word of a sentence in German is always capitalized, regardless of its part of speech or text.

This rule applies to nouns, verbs, adjectives, and other words that start a new sentence.

Some examples where you can see this rule in action:

  • Heute ist ein schöner Tag. (Today is a beautiful day.)
  • Können Sie mir helfen? (Can you help me?)
  • Der Hund bellte die ganze Nacht. (The dog barked all night.)
  • Modernes Design gefällt mir sehr gut. (I really like modern design.)

5. Capital letters in titles and headings

This rule follows specific guidelines for different types of titles and headings, like book titles, article titles, or section headings.

For example:

  • Der Kleine Prinzvon Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)
  • Einführung in die deutsche Grammatik (Introduction to German Grammar)

It’s important to note that minor words like articles, prepositions, and conjunctions are typically not capitalized in titles and headings – unless, of course, they are the first word or part of a compound noun.

6. Capitalize nouns when talking about nationalities and languages

When talking about nationalities or languages in German, the corresponding nouns are capitalized. This rule applies to both singular and plural forms.

Take a look:

  • Ich lerne Deutsch. (I’m learning German.)
  • Die Deutschen sind sehr pünktlich. (The Germans are very punctual.)
  • Er spricht fließend Spanisch und Französisch. (He speaks Spanish and French fluently.)

7. Capitalization in quoted sentences

When quoting direct speech, the first word of the quoted text is capitalized, even if it appears in the middle of a sentence.

This rule helps to make a difference from the quoted text from the rest of the sentence.

Like in these sentences:

  • “Kannst du mir helfen?” fragte sie. (She asked, “Can you help me?”)
  • Er sagte: “Ich komme später.” (He said, “I’ll come later.”)

Practice capitalization in German with our Practice Worksheet Library

Fill in the blanks with the correct words and in some cases, capitalization:

You can practice more if you click this button below! Ready? Los geht’s! (Let’s go!)

Want to learn more about when are nouns capitalised in German? Try Conversation Based Chunking

Conversation Based Chunking can develop a feel for German capitalization.

By engaging in dialogues and breaking sentences into meaningful chunks, you’ll internalize when to capitalize nouns, nationalities, and certain pronouns.

Expose yourself to German and practice through conversations. This will ingrain these rules in your mind, and will allow you to capitalize words naturally – without much overthinking!

What are you waiting for?

Sign up now, and receive your first package of German Conversation Based Chunking Guide with tons of good resources, a weekly program and an essential German Chunking List!

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