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Rules about big and small letters are divided into three parts. Capital letters:
- after punctuation marks (greinarmerkjum)
- in nouns (nafnorðum)
- in other groups
It must be noted that due to (mostly) English influences, both foreigners and Icelanders tend to write capital letters where not appropriate and vice versa. The Icelandic rules also tend to be confusing. However, these few (about five hundred) and simple rules and years of practice, should make it all worth while.
It's studying time!
Capital letters after punctuation marks
- Always start with a capital letter at the beginning of each sentence.
Pretty basic, huh?
- Ex.: Ég er svangur. Fáum okkur að borða. – I'm hungry. Let's have something to eat.
- Ex.: Ertu franskur? – Are you French?
- Ex.: Enska er skemmtileg, en ekki eins skemmtileg og íslenska. – English is fun, but not as fun as Icelandic.
- Always write a capital letter after a period (.) or the equivalent of a period (:?!) unless it is followed by a dependent clause (ósjálfstætt orðasamband).
- Ex.: Aðal þema Moby Dicks var: Vertu þú sjálfur. – The main theme of Moby Dick was: Be yourself.
- Ex.: Jæja! Enn og aftur tókst þér að klúðra þessu. – Well! Once again you managed to screw it up.
- Ex.: Er ég ánægður? Ó jæja. – Am I happy? Oh well.
- Ex.: Hann missti allt: manga bækurnar sínar, myndirnar sínar og DS tölvuna sína. – He lost everything: his manga books, his pictures and his DS game computer.
The last example was a dependent clause (ósjálfstætt orðasamband)
- If a direct quote is in a sentence, a lower case letter follows, even if it ends with a question mark (?) or an exclamation mark (!).
- Ex.: "Ertu lítill?" spurði hann. – "Are you small?" he asked.
- Ex.: "Ég hata þig!" öskraði hún. – "I hate you!" she yelled.
Rules concerning lowercase and capital letters in nouns
A list of proper nouns (sérnöfn)
- Human names (Geir Hagalín), human pet names (Kalli), god and godesses (Hades, Kristur =Krist) and animal names (Lassý)
- (Örnefni), f.x. the names of the continents (Evrópa =Europe), names of countries (Japan), names of locations (New York), names of regions in countries (Norðurland =Northernland), street names (Kringlumýrarbraut =Kringlumýrar St.), also common nouns which are used as proper nouns e.g. (Tjörnin, which means "the pond" and would be written with a t in that meaning), and shortened names of locations (Fjörðurinn = Hafnarfjörður)
- Name of institutions (Spítali Íslands), clubs (The Icelandic book club), corporations (Eimskip, Síminn) and political parties (Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn, Samfylkingin)
- Name of books (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), newspapers (Morgunblaðið, Fréttablaðið) and magazines (Hugur og heilsa)
- Names of musical pieces (Canon in A), poems (Sónettur Shakespears)and essays (Áhrif gróðurhúsaáhrifa)
- Nations (Skoti =Scottish man), residents in specific areas (Texasbúi = a Texan) or continents (Asíu-maður = an Asian)
- Stars (Pólstjarnan) and constellations (Óríon = Orion)
- Note that the names of languages are not written with a capital letter.
(Ísland = Iceland, Íslendingur = an Icelandic person, íslenska = Icelandic.)
Finally, some nouns are written with a lowercase letter if they derive from proper nouns and are then an exception from the rules concerning lowercase letters.