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The capitalization of German nouns

One thing you may have quickly noticed when you began learning German is that all German nouns are capitalized. In English, it is only proper nouns that begin with a capital letter, with the exception of common nouns that are the very first word in a sentence. In German, nouns are always capitalized, regardless of gender, case, or position in the sentence. 

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Let’s take a look. In the following sentence, notice how the first word of each sentence and the proper noun "Munich" are capitalized in both languages. In German, however, the nouns die Bahn, die Stunden, and eine Verbindung also begin with a capital letter.

 

Aber auch die Bahn bietet alle zwei Stunden eine Verbindung von München an.

But also the train offers a connection from Munich every two hours.

Caption 22, 48 h in Innsbruck Sehenswürdigkeiten & Tipps - Part 1

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Capitalization can be especially helpful with verbs that often moonlight as nouns, such as das Schwimmen, das Tanzendas Gehen, or das Schreiben. They are easy to identify as such because they then begin with a capital letter.

 

„Hm, das soll Wandern sein?“, wunderte sich Piggeldy. „So laufen wir doch jeden Tag umher.“

"Hm, this is supposed to be hiking?" Piggeldy asked. "We walk around like this every day, after all."

Captions 11-12, Piggeldy und Frederick Das Wandern

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Note in this next sentence that jemanden and der are not capitalized. Unlike nouns, pronouns do not begin with a capital letter (das is capitalized, of course, because it is the first word in the sentence). Both nouns in eine Tasse Kaffee are capitalized, however, as is die Lobby.

 

Das ist wirklich genauso, äh, für jemand [jemanden], der vielleicht nur mal auf eine Tasse Kaffee bei uns in der schönen Lobby sitzen möchte...

It's really precisely the same, uh, for each person who, perhaps, would just like to sit for a cup of coffee with us in the beautiful lobby...

Captions 16-17, Berlin Hotel Adlon feiert 15 Jahre Neueröffnung

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Die Lobby brings us to another point. In the next sentence, even though das Team is a noun adopted from English, it is capitalized in German. 

 

Das Team bereitet sich auf den gemeinsamen Tauchgang vor.

The team prepares for the joint dive.

Caption 50, Abenteuer Nordsee Unter Riesenhaien und Tintenfischen - Part 

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Further Learning
So when did die Großschreibung develop? As early as the 14th century, capitalized nouns can be found in religious texts, but it wasn't officially implemented until the 17th century. For advanced learners, here is a text about it in German. Otherwise, you can choose any video on Yabla German and pay special attention to the nouns and their capitalization while you watch it.

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