Capitalization & Punctuation
- As you may have noticed by now, all nouns are capitalized in German, wherever they appear in a sentence. This is a nearly unique feature in a contemporary language, and it’s helpful in parsing sentences when there are words you don’t know. We used to do it in English, as you can see in old documents like the U.S. Constitution.
- Sie (the formal “you”) is always capitalized. This also applies to the related forms Ihnenand Ihr, although not to the reflexive pronoun sich.
- Unlike the English I, the first-person singular pronoun ich is not capitalized unless it begins a sentence
- Unlike in English, adjectives describing nationality, ethnicity and religion (the American car) are not capitalized in German (das amerikanische Auto) unless they’re part of a proper noun (Deutsche Bank)
- As in the rest of continental Europe, decimal points and commas are reversed in writing numbers (e.g. a coffee might cost 1,50€ while a car costs 15.000€)
- Typically the format for German quotation marks is „___“ (rather than “___”), with the opening quote mark upside down and both of them curling outwards.
- French chevron-style quotation marks («___») are also sometimes used, although German tends to invert
- Unlike in English, a comma can link two independent clauses in German
- du and its related forms (dich/dir/euch) used to be capitalized like Sie, and some people still capitalize them, especially in correspondence. This is certainly not wrong, but’s no longer standard, and you don’t need to do it unless you want to.