Knowing the rules of punctuation is paramount and should never be neglected. While many might believe that Spanish punctuation is similar to English, there are distinct differences.

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In this article, we will delve into the most common Spanish punctuation marks and elucidate how to utilize them appropriately in writing.

Spanish Punctuation Marks and their Symbols

Let’s begin by visually presenting the punctuation marks in Spanish and comparing them to their English equivalents.

Punctuation MarkSpanish NameEnglish Name
¿ ?signos de interrogaciónquestion marks
¡ !signos de exclamaciónexclamation points
;punto y comasemicolon
:dos puntoscolon
puntos suspensivosellipsis
rayaem dash
( )paréntesisparentheses
« »comillas españolasangle quotes, guillemets
“ ”comillas, comillas inglesasquotation marks, double quotation marks
‘ ’comillas simplessimple quotation marks, apostrophes

Specialties of Using Punctuation in Spanish

Spanish punctuation might seem straightforward at first, but understanding its nuances is crucial for proper usage. Let’s explore the intricacies of these punctuation marks.

Punto — Period (.)

While it primarily denotes the end of a sentence, paragraph, or text, it also has other uses. For instance, while indicating time like 14.45 or in abbreviations such as “Sra. Robles.” Contrary to English, periods aren’t used to group digits in large numbers in Spanish. For instance, 10 million would be written as “10 000 000.”

Coma — Comma (,)

The comma’s primary use is to segregate elements within a sentence. Examples include listing items, indicating decimals, or addressing someone. Crucially, commas should never be placed between the subject and the verb in a sentence.

Correct UsageIncorrect Usage
Tienen un perro, un gato y un ratón.Yo, voy al parque.
Pablo, ayúdame con esto.Estoy cansado, pero, quiero continuar.

Puntos Suspensivos — Ellipsis (…)

Used to depict an unfinished list or to convey doubt or suspense. Remember, the ellipsis should always contain just three dots.

Correct UsageIncorrect Usage
Tenemos café, té, zumo… Además, los dueños son muy amables.No lo sé…. ¿tú que piensas?

Dos Puntos — Colon (:)

Colons have multiple uses in Spanish. They can introduce a list, an example, or even be used in the headers of letters and emails.

Correct UsageIncorrect Usage
Necesitamos estos ingredientes: harina, huevos y azúcar.Algunos días hago deporte: Hoy he ido a nadar.

Signos De Interrogación — Question Marks (¿?)

Unlike English, Spanish utilizes both an opening and closing question mark. For instance, ¿Dónde está tu chaqueta?

Signos De Exclamación — Exclamation Marks (¡!)

Used similarly to question marks but for exclamations, e.g., ¡Qué buena idea!

Comillas — Quotation Marks («»)

While Spanish traditionally uses angle brackets, English quotation marks are also acceptable. They’re primarily used for words from other languages, quotations, and titles.

Correct UsageIncorrect Usage
La película «Dunkerque» se estrenó en 2017.La película “Dunkerque se estrenó en 2017.

Barra — Slash (/)

Used in abbreviations, to indicate multiple possibilities, or to separate the day, month, and year in dates. For instance, c/ for “calle” or 10/11/2005 for dates.

By understanding and mastering these rules, one can ensure effective communication in Spanish. Embracing these punctuation marks not only enhances comprehension but also adds precision to your writing. So, the next time you write in Spanish, remember to punctuate with purpose!


What are the most important Spanish punctuation marks?

The most important Spanish punctuation marks include the period (.), comma (,), question mark (¿?), exclamation mark (¡!), semicolon (;), colon (:), parenthesis (()), quotation marks («» or “”), and the ellipsis (…). Additionally, the tilde (~) is crucial in distinguishing certain words.

What punctuation is different in Spanish and English?

The most notable differences between Spanish and English punctuation are the inverted question marks (¿?) and exclamation marks (¡!). In Spanish, these marks are placed at the beginning and end of questions and exclamations. Additionally, Spanish uses «angle quotation marks» as well as “curly quotation marks”, while English primarily uses “curly quotation marks”. Also, Spanish uses a comma as a decimal separator, whereas English uses a period.

Why does Spanish have two punctuation marks?

Spanish uses inverted punctuation marks at the beginning of questions and exclamations to immediately indicate the tone and structure of the sentence. This allows readers to understand the sentence’s intent from the outset, ensuring clarity in written communication.

What is unique about punctuations in Spanish?

Several aspects of punctuation are unique to Spanish. The use of inverted question and exclamation marks sets it apart from many other languages. The placement of these marks allows for immediate recognition of questions and exclamatory statements. Additionally, the usage of the comma and period in numbers is opposite to that in English. Spanish also traditionally employs angle quotation marks, though the curly ones are becoming more common due to technological influences.


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