I have some story dialog in which an Italian, speaking in English, is directly addressing her boyfriend's Italian grandmother. Everyone's speaking English. Should she say, "Can I tell you a story, Nonna?" or "Can I tell you a story, nonna?"

I know Italians capitalize less than Americans, so I'm not sure how to play this one.

Thanks in advance! Dumb question, I know....

  • 1
    Welcome to Italian.SE
    – Denis Nardin
    Commented Jun 8, 2018 at 15:47
  • What language is the rest of the book in? If English, capitalize Nonna. If Italian, do not capitalize nonna. Only the reader can see the capitalization; I'd argue it doesn't matter what language the characters are speaking. This may work better as a slightly broader question on Writing.SE.
    – Sinjai
    Commented Jun 8, 2018 at 17:29
  • Why do you suggest capitalising nonna, @Sinjai?
    – DaG
    Commented Jun 8, 2018 at 22:45
  • 1
    @DaG That's the rule, I didn't make it. That's Dad vs. That's my dad
    – Sinjai
    Commented Jun 8, 2018 at 23:55
  • I only asked, @Sinjai, I didn't say you made it. Thanks.
    – DaG
    Commented Jun 9, 2018 at 6:39

1 Answer 1


I am not sure I understand your question (if they're speaking in English they must follow English capitalization convention, don't they?), but to answer your implied question:

No, kinship terms are not capitalized in Italian

In general, Italian rules for capitalization are quite simple: unless it is at a beginning of a sentence, or it is a proper noun (as in the actual name of a person or a place), it is not capitalized. As you can see from the link there are some minor exceptions (mainly when an expression has begun to be treated as a proper noun in practice, like in la Rivoluzione francese, the French revolution), but that's pretty much the gist of it.

  • Thanks so much, all. I should have been clearer. The book is in English and it’s fiction. As Denis points out, there is surely some editorial judgment involved in this situation, and there may not be a hard and fast rule, but generally I like to follow the convention in the language the word comes from. Debatable for sure. Same issue with italicization, for that matter. Some might italicize “nonna” in this context, but I find it distracting. Anyway...now that I know how it would be handled in written Italian, I have the data to decide how I want to write it in my story. Many thanks! Commented Jun 9, 2018 at 17:10

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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