Do you find yourself second-guessing if you should capitalize the names of seasons? Are you unsure if you should refer to the "Summer of '69" or "summer of '69"? The capitalization rules in the English language may seem simple at first glance, but there are exceptions.
Since we capitalize the names of months and days, it will be logical to capitalize the seasons too. But are seasons capitalized?
The answer is "no" in most cases. Seasons are common nouns that don't need to be capitalized. The names of the seasons describe some events, not some specific periods or date ranges. That's why they are considered common nouns, unlike months and days.
Read on to learn the basic capitalization rules, details on why seasons aren't proper nouns, and when you should capitalize them.
The basic rules of capitalization
Capitalization is used for proper nouns, the first word of a sentence, titles, and more. Knowing the basic rules will help you write more clearly and correctly.
- Capitalization applies to the first word of a sentence. Example: We watched a game yesterday.
- You need to capitalize the pronoun "I," no matter its placement in a sentence. Example: Nina and I are friends.
- Capitalize all proper and common nouns, including the names of people and places and titles of books, movies, and songs. Example: She read The Cat in the Hat.
- All titles and honorifics should be capitalized when used with a name. Example: We visited the hospital where Dr. Smith works.
- Capitalize the days of the week, months of the year, and holidays. Example: I went to the store on Monday.
- When referring to a specific deity, you must capitalize the name. Example: Have you heard of Zeus, the Greek god of thunder and lightning?
Proper nouns vs. common nouns
Proper nouns are names for specific people, places, things, or ideas. You need to capitalize them, even if they are in the middle of a sentence.
Examples of proper nouns include:
- People: John, Mary, Alex
- Places: France, Ohio, Grand Canyon
- Things: iPhone, Mercedes-Benz
- Ideas: Stoicism, Christianity
On the other hand, common nouns are general words used to name people, places, things, or ideas. They are capitalized when placed at the beginning of a sentence.
Examples of common nouns include:
- People: girl, boy, teacher
- Places: city, river, forest
- Things: laptop, book
- Ideas: religion, politics
It's also important to note that some words can be both proper and common nouns, depending on the context. For example, "Apple" can be a proper noun when referring to the company and a common noun when referring to the fruit.
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Are seasons capitalized? What are the rules?
The four seasons are winter, spring, summer, and fall/autumn. You don't need to capitalize seasons because they are common nouns.
According to the Associated Press Stylebook, the first letter of a season's name will be lowercase unless it starts a sentence. The rule will be the same when the season indicates a period, like a wintertime or summertime.
The general grammar rules don't require using uppercase letters for seasons, but there are exceptions.
When you personify a season
Personification is a figurative style that attributes human characteristics to inanimate objects or ideas. It is a poetic device that makes writing more vivid and powerful.
For example, the following lines from William Wordsworth's poem, The World is Too Much With Us:
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
In these lines, the poet personifies the sea as a woman; hence, the capitalization.
Similarly, many poets used their favorite seasons to personify the quality of a beloved person or event. For example, John Keats used this technique in his To Autumn poem.
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
Again, Patricia L. Cisco wrote Sing To Me, Autumn, representing autumn as a person. Here is a line from this poem:
"Kiss me, Autumn, with your enchanting spellbound ways."
In these examples, the names of the seasons are capitalized because of their human qualities.
Using seasons as proper nouns
If you present a season name as a proper noun in your writing, you should capitalize it. For example:
- The 2023 Winter Olympics
Here in the first example, winter represents the upcoming Olympic games. Since it's placed here to describe a specific event, you should treat it as a proper noun and capitalize the name.
Also, you must capitalize the names of the seasons when they are used as a person's name. There are many girls named after the seasons. In these cases, the names will be proper nouns and need capitalization.
- Everyone loves Summer because of her sweet nature.
- My friend Winter sings in a band.
When you use season names in the title
The general grammar rules include capitalizing all words, except for prepositions and articles, in the title of a book, movie, song, or music album.
Think of titles like I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997), The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder, or One Crazy Summer (1986). The seasons' names are capitalized here because they are in the titles.
Remember, when you use a common noun in any title, it becomes a proper noun, and you should capitalize it according to grammar rules.
Using a season name at the beginning of a sentence
Capitalizing the first word of a sentence is a standard grammar rule. So, if the first word is a season's name, you have to capitalize it.
You must use uppercase whenever seasons start the sentence. For example:
- Summer is my sister's favorite season.
- Winter is the time to cozy up at home.
- Autumn is a blooming season.
Why are the names of the seasons not proper nouns?
It's confusing that the first letter of a month or day is a capital letter, and a season is not. Why is that so?
When we refer to a proper noun, we mention a specific person, place, or thing. For example, the name of a person (James), a city (London), or a landmark (the Eiffel Tower) is a proper noun.
The names of the seasons are common nouns because they are not specific names but refer to a general time or cycle.
The words associated with the four seasons, such as "blossom" or "snowstorm," are also common nouns. Again, this is because these words are general terms used to describe certain phenomena associated with the seasons and are not specific to any particular thing or incident.
The months and days indicate a continuous and specific period, but seasons refer to a general time frame. Therefore, the general rule is not to capitalize the names of seasons.
So, are seasons capitalized? You now know the answer. Unless there are some exceptions, you should keep the first letter of the season lowercase. Season names are common nouns, and they don't require capitalization.
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