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French : MLA Citations in French

Capitalization and Personal Names in Foreign Languages

This page contains reccomendations for writing personal names and for capitalizing in French. For more information on MLA style, please refer to the Citing Sources Guide

All of the following samples are taken from:

The Modern Language Association of America. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 8th ed, The Modern Language Association of America, 2009. 

French

Personal Names

With some exceptions, especially in English-language contexts, French de following a first name or title such as Mme or duc is not used with the name alone.

Maupassant (Guy de Maupassant)
Nemours (Louis-Charles d'Orléans, duc de Nemours)

However, when the last name has only one syllable, de is usually retained.

de Gaulle (Charles de Gaulle)

The preposition also remains, in the form of d', when it elides with the last name also beginning with a vowel.

d'Arcy (Pierre d'Arcy)

The forms du and des- combinations of de with le and les- are always used with last names and are capitalized.

Du Bos (Charles Du Bos)

A hyphen is frequently used between French given names, as well as between their initials (Marie-Joseph Chénier, M.-J. Chénier) Note that M. and P. before names may be abbreviations for Monsieur 'Mr.' and Père 'Father' (M. René Char, P.J. Reynard)

 

Capitalization

In prose and verse, French capitalization is the same as English except that the following terms are not capitalized in French unless they begin sentences or, sometimes, lines of verse.

1. The subject pronoun je 'I'
2. The names of months and days of the week
3. The names of languages
4. Adjectives derived from proper nouns
5. Titles preceding personal names
6. The words meaning "street," "square," "lake," "mountain," and so on, in most place-names

There are two widely accepted methods of capitalizing French titles and subtitles of works. One method is to capitalize the first word in titles and subtitles and all proper nouns in them. This method is normally followed in publications of the Modern Language Association.

La chambre claire: Note sur la photographie

In the other method, when a title or subtitle begins with an article, the first noun and any preceding adjectives are also capitalized. In this system, all major words in titles of series and periodicals are sometimes capitalized.

La Chambre claire: Note sur la photographie

Whichever practice you choose or your instructor requires, follow it consistently throughout your paper.