The King is dead. Long live the King!

I received the following question from Jeanette about using capitals:

“I am a writer and always have problems with the following:
‘The king is dead. Long live King Edward.’
‘She told me Captain Lorca read the book. The captain could read.’

I am referring to the same king in the first sentence, and to the same captain in the second.  Why wouldn’t both be capitalized? Thanks for your help. I have no rule to follow with this problem.”

It’s a good question, with (quite) a simple answer.

In the case of “King Edward” and “Captain Lorca” we are using a person’s name. As you know, names in English are always capitalized. We write Edward, not edward. We write Lorca, not lorca.

When we also use a title with a name, we capitalize the title too. So we write King Edward, not king Edward. We write Captain Lorca, not captain Lorca.

But when we use the title just as a common noun, there is usually no need to capitalize it.

  • My taxi-driver could speak English
  • The waitress was tall.
  • Our doctor is nice.
  • The pilot spoke to the passengers.
  • Do you know the president?
  • The captain could read.

Just occasionally we may use an initial capital to show respect for a specific person with a very high title such as king or president. Usually this is when there is only one such personage (in a country, or perhaps in a company or ship). When we do this everybody knows exactly who we are talking about – it is like using the person’s name. Look at these examples, which show specific titles (capitalized) and non-specific titles:

  • The Prime Minister met the King last night.
  • Who is the King’s doctor?
  • The doctor prescribed some medicine.
  • There are many presidents in the world.
  • He is the president of this company.
  • The President wants to see you now.
  • Who will be the next president?
  • Who is the king of this country?
  • What is the King’s name?
  • The Titanic sank in the Atlantic. The Captain went down with the ship.
  • President Hu Jintao is General Secretary of the Communist Party of China.

This is also a question of style, and some writers might capitalize when others might not. When we are writing about a title or titles in general there is almost always no need to capitalize. Almost all writers would agree on the following examples:

  • Would you like to be a king?
  • Yesterday I met two kings and a president.
  • There were some kings at the meeting.
  • Each ship has a captain.
  • This hospital has twenty doctors.

So Jeanette is perfectly correct to write “The king is dead. Long live King Edward.” And the title of this post is also correct “The King is dead. Long live the King!”)

The important thing to remember is that when you use a title + name, they must both be capitalized

  • Queen Elizabeth
  • President Obama
  • Lầu Anh Tuấn says:

    The story is great. I really love it!

  • Tahereh says:

    Hi, dear Joe
    Thanks for your the best answer. I read it and enjoy.

  • Masood says:

    Thanks for the lesson
    It’s the rule of grammar to capitalize The King or The President if we use their names. But the truth is that the most of them doesn’t deserve it.

  • Nick says:

    Thanks , great job… best wishes from Romania…

  • Jorge says:

    Thanks, it was very helpfull.

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  • Mahhhgolll says:

    I got it.Thanks a lot dear Mr.Essberger.

  • Jock Lee says:

    it is very good lesson, I like it very much.

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    please, help me improve speaking skill! i am very bad speaking,so how must i do to improve speaking?

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  • Nasser says:

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    My name is Nasser and i live in Netherlands.
    I would like to improve my writing skills and get correspond with native speaker. I have a dream to write my own story in English one day.
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    Kind regards,

  • twfeeq says:

    Writing correctly is not an easy things, It is ruled thing. I used to write and to read comments here but I afraid that some of writers have written their comments with lot of mistakes, It may be has a negative influence on others writings, I wish if we have here a correction tools look after this mistakes not for spelling rules only but for grammar’s mistakes also.

  • than quoc hiep says:

    hi …every one !
    i’m from i’m a student .the major to learning for me very need English languese after go out then i’ll joined in the club.i’ll to do anything to improve ENGLISH skill but not success.i’m hope that the club is helping me .special speaking and written skill
    thank you ! have a nice day !

  • Robin says:

    Thanks for EC Website and Josef Essberger..
    I was so glad to come here..
    Let’s study together..

    Best Regards
    Robin Guo

  • ly says:

    thank you very much! it is useful for me.

  • yona says says:

    it’s a good lesson

  • Ahsan says:

    Its really an intresting lesson and i hope it will help me in improving my writing skills.


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    hi everyone, im samir , im from morocco , im taking english classes in hcc florida. Im a new comer here,and im looking for friends, from all over the world to speak english…. good luck everyone. my skype is: samir_bendriss

  • agyo says:

    i don’t think about this story

  • awea says:

    thx, good lesson

  • vizimax says:

    thumbs upppp


  • farah jama says:

    Hi, today is my second time in this site and Iam really encouraging my fried’s sugestion saying ,” hey let’s talk together and I think he or he means by onle sorry my ugly hand writing.

  • David Toan says:

    Hi! Every one.

  • Zeidan Banat says:

    Thank you so much for this lesson. It is so benfefitial for students. I hope you give some kind of advice of how to teach writing for secondary students.
    Thanks in advance

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  • yusanjan says:

    it si really good lesson for me

    Thank you

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    hi this is the guest to ur site and want to learn english writting so any one can reply me on

  • Dimitar says:

    I wish to communicate online with a intermediate learner to improve our language together!
    My skype is mitko1752
    Thank you in advance. 🙂

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    Hi, I ama a new comer, and I really need help to write good English.
    Everytime, I try to write something my teacher returned me and said please go back you home-work and correct you mistakes. Although , Iam not good in writng and you can see how bad my writeing is ,I would like to do something better.Please help me becasue I need you help.

  • noha says:

    Hi, how you all????
    I am New member in English club. I’m 25 years. Am from Saudi Arabia, but now I am studing English language in United state in Boston. I want to speak English with your help And therefore participated in the englishclub 🙂

  • Anne says:

    I actually didn’t know exactly when you write capitals or not.

    Very helpfull lesson.

    But indeed @Viviana,
    Should nationalities be capilized too?



  • ziz says:

    any one here

  • ziz says:

    pleas i am search speak any one in englesh
    pleas help me

  • rawad says:

    it is very successful lesson, there are many points i did n’t know

  • naidu says:


  • Viviana says:

    Thank you so much. By the way I want to ask you about nationalities?, like peruvian, indian, colombian, it should be capitalized too?
    Thanks again

  • elisha says:

    well, i dont know the reason but i know how to use it.

  • Judie says:

    It is very useful with me. Thanks …

  • Mairan says:

    it was good man.. i liked it..continue please thank you

  • Ha says:

    Good lesson

  • abdul says:

    i am new comer on this site . i want to improve my writting skills soo plz gimme a suggesation about this thanx.

  • Snow says:

    Thanks. That’s very helpful, solving the question I had had in mind for a long time.

  • apple says:

    I think there are no rules in large and small letters, except for President Obama. these things are more flexible. But if we could use them more regularly, why not? thanks a lot, good lesson.

  • Rasika says:

    It is a very good lesson. This helpful to improve English writing.

  • Anonimo says:

    Pen3 y ping@ a todos ustedes weones

  • Connygiwa says:

    I’m new comer. It’s really a good site for me to learn English. Now I know how to use the captial words. Thanks all.

  • ekasofia says:

    thank you for you lesson..
    it really help me to understand
    i’m a new comer to this site n i really need help to progress my english..

  • ekasofia says:

    thank you for you lesson..
    it really help me to understand
    i’m a new comer to this site n i really need to progress my english..

  • Ty says:

    Well, English is life long learning,and take your time.

  • Phorntita says:

    Hi! Everyone
    I’m a new comer to this site. I choose to read this topic of Writing in Joe’s Cafe, the reason is that I’m interested in Writing and need much progress in developimg it.

  • Nidhi says:

    I can’t beleieve it The school is almost over.

    How to make this sentence correct punctuation wise? Do I put an exclamatory mark after both it and over?

    The T in the will become a help

  • jirik says:

    Thank you;)

  • MRM says:

    what funny attractive lesson like killing Kings and Presidents OBAMA,
    thanks to all

  • Eric says:

    Thank you ! very interesting !
    We have to write : the king of Morocco or The King of Morocco???

  • Karina says:

    It is a very good lesson.
    Thank u.

  • david says:

    Sorry!,…. i didn’t understand!!!
    Somebody can explain me!!…tnks

  • veareak says:

    please show me how to be a good writing in English?

  • Keogh says:

    Thanks a lot. The lesson was useful. Now I get it whwhwh.. Thanks Again ^^

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    Pls help me to learn E!

  • Koteswara Rao says:

    Excellent.This is what I am searching for.Thank you.

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    the club is a good idea

  • Whatever You want says:

    I don’t remember when I join but Lucky I have joined here
    maybe 8,9 years ago I have used chat room and I have know a lot of foreign friends and than I have improved and learn too much things about I would like to say thanks ur lessons are very useful…
    now I have a lot of friend in all of world!
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  • Christian says:

    Thank you
    that lesson is very useful

  • Mohammad Rawoof says:

    the lesson was really helpful for improving writing skills, I would suggust including a paragraph, letter or a story as well to such lessons for readers to read so that it will be found more interusting.


  • Anushka says:

    THis was a great lessons. The king is dead, after that long live King Edward was confusing.

    thanks for explaning

  • yara says:

    This lesson is really benefited me a lot since my major is TEFL.

  • BADRIA AL-MUTAIRI (kw) says:

    Hi all,

    I only wants to Thank u for this lesson.

  • Duy says:

    Thanks Budle, it’s good lesson

    have a nice day, evry one

  • JUASHO says:

    i didn’t understood anything

  • Jackie says:

    This is common mistakes, we are used to ignoring!!

    Good lesson

    The King is dead, Long live the King

  • Vespid says:

    Good day !
    And good lesson , the king is dead , Long live Vespid …. aha ha …
    every one have a nice day !
    (China )

  • fa says:

    ……… ‘When we do this everybody knows exactly (WHO or WHOM) we are talking about’

  • Linda k (Hollywood) says:

    The king is dead is the announcement of monarch
    who has just died.
    Long live the king refer to the heir who is
    immediately the successor to a throne upon the
    death of the preceding monarch.

  • Linda k (Hollywood) says:

    Hi everyone
    ” The king is dead” Is the announcement of
    monarch who has just died.
    “Long live the king” refer to the heir who is
    immediately the successor to the to a throne upon
    the death of the preceding monarch.

    “The king is dead.Long live the king”
    (French:Le roi est mort,vive Roi)

    Best wish
    Linda k (Hollywood USA)

  • Wajdi Gary says:

    I learned a lot from this lesson.. Thanks A Bundle!

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