Variable Capitalization

French capitalization
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Capitalisation variable

For some French words, including nationalities and honorifics, capitalization or the lack thereof distinguishes between different meanings or uses.

I. Compass Points

Capitalized when they refer to a specific place:

Je veux visiter l’Europe de l’Est.   I want to visit Eastern Europe.
Nous habitons dans le Sud.   We live in the South (of France).

Not capitalized when they indicate a direction:

Je l’ai trouv√© √† l’est de la ville.   I found it east of the city.
Il faut continuer vers le sud pendant 20 kilom√®tres.   You have to continue south for 20 kilometers.

II. Honorifics

Capitalized when talking to the person:

Bonjour Madame Lef√®vre, comment allez-vous ?   Hello Mrs. Lef√®vre, how are you?
Un moment, s’il vous pla√ģt, Professeur Duchamps.   A moment, please, Professeur Duchamps.

Not capitalized when talking about him or her:

J’ai vu madame Lef√®vre ce matin.   I saw Mrs. Lef√®vre this morning.
Il prends un cours avec le professeur Duchamps.   He’s taking a class with Professor Duchamps.

III. Nationalities

Capitalized when used as nouns:

Les Fran√ßais d√©jeunent √† 13 h.   The French eat lunch at 1pm.
J’ai fait la connaissance d’un Grec hier.   I met a Greek (man) yesterday.

Not capitalized when used as adjectives:

Mes voisins sont fran√ßais.   My neighbors are French.
J’ai d√©couvert un bon vin grec.   I discovered a good Greek wine.

IV. Places and Products

Places are capitalized:

J’ai visit√© la Bourgogne l’ann√©e derni√®re.   I visited Burgundy last year.
Il est √† Gruy√®res, en Suisse.   He’s in Gruy√®res, in Switzerland.

Their eponymous products are not capitalized:

J’y ai d√©gust√© beaucoup de bourgogne.   I tasted a lot of burgundy there.
Il n’aime pas le gruy√®re.   He doesn’t like gruy√®re cheese.

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French variable capitalization

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