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Punctuation Marks in Spanish

English and Spanish punctuation marks are used more or less the same way. There are a few variations, perhaps one of the most significant differences is that Spanish has opening question and exclamation marks while English does not. Opening marks didn't always exist in Spanish. In most languages ​​a single question mark is used at the end of the question phrase. This was the habitual use also in Spanish, until the 18th century, when the Real Academia Española declared it mandatory to start questions with the inverted question mark (¿), and end with the common question mark (?). The institution ordered the same for exclamation marks (¡) and (!). The adoption was slow, and you can find books from the 19th century for example, that don’t use such opening marks.

Eventually, however, it did become widely accepted. This is in part due to the nature of Spanish syntax and at times the difficulty in deducing when an interrogative phrase actually begins, as compared to other languages. Many linguists believe the question mark originated from the Latin word qvaestio, meaning question. This word was reportedly abbreviated in the Middle Ages by scholars as just qo. Over time, a capital “Q” was written over the “o”, and formed one letter. Then, it morphed into the modern question mark we know today.

It is worth mentioning that the influence of technology and the English language are changing the use of opening marks in informal contexts. It is not common to see them in online chats, or in text messages between friends. Only the closing marks are commonly used in such settings.

Do you know the names of the punctuation marks in Spanish? Several of these marks are part of expressions in the everyday vocabulary of natives, so it is useful for learners of Spanish to be familiar with them. Here we go:

Punctuation Marks: Signos de Puntuación:

full stop or period . punto

comma , coma

semicolon ; punto y coma

colon : dos puntos

quotation marks “ ” comillas

round brackets, parentheses ( ) paréntesis

apostrophe apóstrofo

question mark ¿? signo de interrogación, de apertura y cierre

exclamation mark ¡! signo de exclamación, de apertura y cierre

ellipsis mark puntos suspensivos

hyphen - guión

dash raya

slash / barra

Here are a few expressions:

Michael Jordan es el mejor jugador de la historia, y punto.

Michael Jordan is the best player in history, period.

Creo, entre paréntesis, que este autor no está bien traducido.

As a side note, I think this author is not well translated.

Supongo que él piensa que eso fue, entre comillas, gracioso.

I guess he thinks that was, quote unquote, funny.

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~I’m a Spanish teacher based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Since 2007 I have been teaching Spanish to people from all over the world. Whether looking for an online Spanish tutor, or in person while visiting Buenos Aires, please reach out to me with any questions you might have!~

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