A Guide To The Most Important Spanish Punctuation Marks

You might already know about the upside down question marks, but there’s more to Spanish punctuation than that.
Spanish punctuation represented by someone writing in a notebook on a desk.

Many languages share certain punctuation marks, so often you won’t have to relearn them from scratch. Spanish punctuation marks share quite a bit in common with English ones, but there are certainly differences. You may already know this, but one thing unique to Spanish is that question marks and exclamation marks are used at both the beginning and end of a question or exclamation.

A fundamental aspect of using punctuation marks is knowing whether you need to leave spaces before or after them. As a general rule, punctuation marks in Spanish are written right next to the previous word and are separated from the following word by a space, for example with the comma or period. Of course, there are some exceptions, which we’ll explain in this article. Let’s see which punctuation marks are the most used in Spanish.

The Most Important Spanish Punctuation Marks

Punto — Period (.)

It’s mainly used to indicate the end of a sentence, paragraph, or text. It’s also used with abbreviations (Sra. Robles — “Mrs. Robles”) and to express the time (14.45). The period is never used to separate or group the digits in a number in Spanish, regardless of its length (for example, the number 10 million is “10 000 000”).

Coma — Comma (,)

In general, the comma is used to separate elements within the same sentence. It appears in a number of different situations, but ;et’s take a look at the main ways this punctuation mark is used.

  • To separate items in a list. For example, Tienen un perro, un gato y un ratón. (“They have a dog, a cat, and a mouse.”) Remember that a comma isn’t used before the y (“and”) at the end of a list in Spanish.
  • To write numbers with decimals. For example, as 2,25 (although it’s also valid to use a period).
  • To indicate when you’re addressing someone. For example, Pablo, ayúdame con esto. (“Pablo, help me with this.”) or Venid, niños, la cena está lista. (“Come, children, dinner is ready.”) In these cases, the comma is crucial to avoid misunderstandings. After all, just like in English, it’s not the same to say Vamos a comer, niños (“Let’s eat, children”) as it is to say Vamos a comer niños (“Let’s eat children”).

Also, remember not to use a comma between the subject and the verb in a sentence. For example, in the sentence Yo, voy al parque (“I, go to the park”) it’s not correct to put a comma between yo and voy.

Puntos Suspensivos — Ellipsis (…)

The ellipsis is mainly used at the end of an incomplete list (Tenemos café, té, zumo… — “We have coffee, tea, juice…”) or to show doubt or suspense (No lo sé… ¿tú que piensas? — “I don’t know… what do you think?”). The correct version of this punctuation mark contains only three dots. In addition, a space is always left after the ellipsis and the following word is only capitalized if it’s part of a new sentence, for example: En esta tienda venden comida, ropa, juguetes… Además, los dueños son muy amables. (“In this store they sell food, clothes, toys… Besides, the owners are very kind.”)

Dos Puntos — Colon (:)

This sign has several uses — let’s take a look at some of the most important ones:

  1. To introduce a list. For example, Necesitamos estos ingredientes: harina, huevos y azúcar. (“We need these ingredients: flour, eggs, and sugar.”), or to introduce an example like Algunos días hago deporte: hoy he ido a nadar. (“Some days I do sports: today I went swimming.”) In this case, the following word is written in lowercase.
  2. To write the time. E.g. 06:30 (although, as mentioned, it’s also valid to use a period).
  3. In the header of letters and emails. For example, Hola, Laura: (“Hello, Laura:”) or Estimado cliente: (“Dear customer:”). In this case, the colon is followed by a new line and the first word is capitalized.

As you’ve seen, colons are written right next to the previous word and separated from the following word with a space.

Signos De Interrogación — Question Marks (¿?)

They’re used to indicate the beginning and end of a question. As mentioned before, Spanish has both an opening sign (¿) and a closing sign (?), and you need to use both to write a question. Let’s look at a few examples.

  • ¿Dónde está tu chaqueta? (“Where’s your jacket?”)
  • Tengo un coche nuevo, ¿quieres verlo? (“I have a new car, want to see it?”)

Signos De Exclamación — Exclamation Marks (¡!)

They’re used in the same way as question marks, but for exclamations.

  • ¡Qué buena idea! (“What a good idea!”)
  • Me encanta esta canción, ¡es genial! (“I love this song, it’s great!”)

Comillas — Quotation Marks («»)

Spanish traditionally uses angle brackets («»), but it’s also not incorrect to use English quotation marks (“”). They’re mainly used with words from other languages and quotations, as well as for titles of books, movies and other artistic works.

  • La película «Dunkerque» se estrenó en 2017. (The film “Dunkirk” was released in 2017.)
  • Su respuesta fue: «Debería estar en un museo». (His response was, “It should be in a museum.”)

Barra — Slash (/)

The slash is used in some abbreviations, such as c/ (for calle, meaning “street”), which is common when writing postal addresses. It’s also used to show several possibilities (Indique el/los día/días de la reserva. — “Enter the day/day(s) of the reservation.”) and to separate the day, month and year in dates (10/11/2005). For dates, keep in mind that the recommended date format in Spanish is “day/month/year.”

List Of Spanish Punctuation Marks

Spanish Symbol English
punto . full stop/period
coma , comma
punto y coma ; semicolon
dos puntos : colon
punto suspensivo ellipsis
comillas «» quotation marks
apóstrofe apostrophe
guión en dash
paréntesis ( ) parentheses
corchetes [] brackets
signo de exclamación ! exclamation mark
signo de interregación ? question mark
barra / slash
viñeta bullet point
guion bajo _ underscore/low dash
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