Is English the only language where "I" is always capitalized, no matter where it occurs in a sentence? The other two languages that I'm familiar with don't do this.

In German, "ich" is only capitalized at the start of a sentence; the same is true for "yo" in Spanish.

If English is unique in this regard, or even if among a subset of languages that do this, is there a historical reason behind it? A philosopical or cultural one, or...???

  • 3
    But in English, we also capitalize nationalities and languages. – Tim Ward Jan 11 '16 at 21:35
  • 2
    I have two suspicions which cannot be verified due to the nature of human existence and our documented history. First, the capital I just looks better on the written page and is easier to see from a visual pattern perspective. Second, I expect the writs from Her or His Majesty may have influenced the practices and patterns of all English speakers, and I'm sure the Royalty would never reduce their personal pronouns to lowercase. ;) – Tim Ward Jan 11 '16 at 21:47
  • 2
    @TimWard: but influence from royal spelling would tend to apply to capitalized "We," I'd assume. – herisson Jan 11 '16 at 23:13
  • 2
    I'm curious why there are two down-votes on this question.. – Insane Jan 12 '16 at 3:37
  • 2
    @Chenmunka: No, it's a question about English and other languages, but focuses on English. – B. Clay Shannon Jan 12 '16 at 15:30

English is at the least very lonely in this stance. We may very well be the only language that does capitalize the first person singular pronoun. Here's some reading to keep you busy.

Why Do We Capitalize I?

Only English Speakers Capitalize 'I,' But That Doesn't Mean We're Obsessed With Ourselves

Me, Myself and I

Why Do We Capitalize “I”?


I think the reason is very simple. If you write "i" it is so small a letter that often it can happen you fail to see it, especially in fast handwriting when the dot is often neglected. " I" has nothing to do with philosophy or culture or an overestimated ego.

To my knowledge, and I have looked into about 25 to 30 languages just to understand their system and mainly to better see how I learn a foreign language English is the only language that uses "I" instead of "i" just for better readability.

  • Latin doesn't have subject pronouns (Veni, vidi, vici), so we can't blame the Romans. – WS2 Jan 12 '16 at 0:21
  • @WS2: Ego, tu, nos, vos, – Henry Jan 12 '16 at 0:40
  • 1
    @WS2 it has them, it just doesn't use them as much as English does. In this respect it is similar to Spanish (unsurprisingly). – phoog Jan 12 '16 at 0:49
  • @phoog But are they used as subjects? It is more than half a century since I studied Latin! – WS2 Jan 12 '16 at 0:53
  • @WS2 yes. They're subject pronouns after all. They are used for emphasis or contrast, for example. Ego te video et tu me vidis. – phoog Jan 12 '16 at 14:38

This is not so much a question about English, but more about every language other than English.

German, for example, capitalizes Sie, when it is used as a formal "you". Traditionally, Du is also capitalized, especially in correspondence. Is that the "same" as in English? Is there a rationale for any of these orthographic conventions? Does this superficial trait tell you anything useful about the languages that happen to share these quirks? You decide.

  • 1
    So it's interesting that in German words referencing others are sometimes capitalized ("Sie" und "Du"), but the one used to reference oneself ("ich") only at the beginning of a sentence. – B. Clay Shannon Jan 12 '16 at 0:38
  • As a German I can say that in a letter to a very dear person "Du" is an expression of respect, estimation and politeness. "Sie" as address for one or several persons is a differention of "sie". My sister (sie), the people (sie). So German has three different "sie". – rogermue Jan 12 '16 at 1:09

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.