Punctuation Marks, Special Characters, and Other Symbols in Spanish
Have you ever come across weird symbols in Spanish? Perhaps you don’t know what they mean or how to write them?
Well, you’re not alone. Pretty much every Spanish student has gone through the same situation during their learning process. Part of learning Spanish is discovering these special characters and finding out how to use them.
Today, we’ll discuss why you need to learn the Spanish punctuation rules; discover the most commonly used punctuation marks in Spanish; find out how to type the Spanish special characters; and see what other symbols in Spanish exist.
Why Learn to Use Punctuation Marks and Other Symbols in Spanish?
Although some “international” punctuation marks and special characters are used and recognized in different languages, every language has its own punctuation rules and unique symbols. Learning them is a crucial part of your language acquisition process, as they are vital to developing your writing skills in the new language.
These unique punctuation marks and other symbols in Spanish generally work in similar ways to how they behave in English, which make it easier to understand their use. Some slight variations and different special characters are the main issues to focus on, and that’s what we’ll do in the following sections.
How to Use Punctuation Marks in Spanish
The correct use of punctuation marks and other symbols in Spanish is a sign of advanced writing and reading skills. These special characters tell you when to pause, how to adapt the tone of your voice, and other important information.
A hidden benefit of learning punctuation rules in Spanish is that by mastering them, you’ll start thinking more about the structure of your sentences and the parts of speech you’ll use with them. In other words, you’ll become more “grammar conscious,” and your Spanish will improve as a result.
Punto – Period
The “period” is one of the symbols in Spanish that works just like in English, only it’s called by slightly different names.
To explain the three types of periods in Spanish, we’ll use the following passage:
El español es un idioma popular. No solo se habla en Latinoamérica, sino también en muchas partes de Estados Unidos. (punto y aparte after “Estados Unidos”)
Sin embargo, es importante recordar que existen diferentes maneras de hablar el español.
Spanish is a popular language. It’s not only spoken in Latin America, but also in many parts of the United States.
However, it’s important to remember that there are different ways to speak Spanish.
1. Punto y seguido
Translated literally, this means “period and continue.” It’s the one you use when you continue writing in the same paragraph after the period. Every time you see a period in the middle of a paragraph, it’s a punto y seguido.
For example, there is a punto y seguido after the word popular at the end of the first sentence in the passage.
2. Punto y aparte
The “period and aside” is the period you use to end a paragraph. After using this period, you have to start a new idea in a new paragraph.
A punto y aparte comes after Estados Unidos in the passage.
3. Punto y final
The “final period” is the period you use to end a chapter, article, or letter. You use punto y final when you have finished writing.
In the passage, the punto final comes at the end, after the word español.
In all cases, the Spanish punto plays the same role as the English period. It simply tells the reader to make a long pause.
Coma – Comma
The comma indicates a brief pause to be made within a sentence. Its use in Spanish has three key differences to how it’s used in English.
1. In Spanish, we don’t use the Oxford Comma. This means that when you’re listing a series of things, you don’t write a comma before the word y (“and”).
Compré pan, leche y tortillas.
I bought bread, milk, and tortillas.
2. When you use quotation marks in English, and need to add a comma after them, you add the comma before the last quotation mark. In Spanish, you add it after the last quotation mark.
“Te amo”, le dijo con una sonrisa en la cara.
“I love you,” he said with a smile on his face.
3. In Spain, people use the periods and commas in numbers in the opposite way as in Latin American and the United States. They use periods for numbers in the thousands and millions and a comma as a decimal point.
1.987.654,32 (Spain and Europe)
1,987,654.32 (Latin America and U.S.)
Punto y Coma – Semicolon
The semicolon is formed by a period and a comma, hence its name in Spanish. It indicates a longer pause than a comma, but a shorter one than a period. It’s mostly used to separate different ideas within a single sentence, in complex lists, and before conjunctions and transition words.
En la reunión se discutirán los avances en el programa de pagos automáticos; las nuevas ideas de producto; los ganadores del premio de puntualidad y las propuestas para la cena de Navidad.
At the meeting, we’ll discuss the automatic payments program advances; the new product ideas; the winners of the attendance; and punctuality prize and the proposals for the Christmas party.
Dos Puntos – Colon
Just as in English, los dos puntos are used to indicate that an explanation, a list, a numeration, or a quote is coming next. Also, use a colon after the initial greeting in a business letter or email.
Los signos de puntuación son los siguientes: el punto, la coma, el punto y coma, etc.
The punctuation marks are as follows: period, comma, semicolon, etc.
Estimados padres de familia:
Puntos Suspensivos – Ellipsis
This is one of the symbols in Spanish that works exactly the same as in English. We use puntos suspensivos to express suspense, create expectation, or indicate hesitation. You can also use it to indicate an omission or represent a trailing off of thought.
Si tan solo… bueno, ya no importa.
If only… well, it doesn’t matter anymore.
Signos de Interrogación – Question Mark
You use the question mark in Spanish in exactly the same situations as in English, with the only difference being that in Spanish you need to add a signo de interrogación at the beginning of the question. This symbol doesn’t exist in English, but it’s basically an upside down question mark.
¿Cómo te llamas?
What’s your name?
¿De dónde eres?
Where are you from?
Signos de Exclamación – Exclamation Point
Same thing with question marks. You need to add an upside down exclamation point to the start of the exclamation sentence.
¡Me gané la lotería!
I won the lottery!
¡Conseguí el trabajo!
I got the job!
Paréntesis – Parentheses
These symbols in Spanish also work exactly the same as in English. You use parentheses to clarify an idea aside from the main point, to add abbreviations or their meaning, and to add places and dates.
La Organización de las Naciones Unidas (ONU) celebró su Asamblea General.
The UN (United Nations) celebrated its General Assembly.
Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) fue un gran poeta chileno.
Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) was an outstanding Chilean poet.
Comillas – Quotation Marks
Use the quotation marks to reproduce textual quotes, to indicate that a word or expression is being used ironically or that it comes from another language, and to quote titles of movies, books, articles, etc. In Spanish, the punctuation mark goes outside the quotation marks, unlike in American English.
La llamada “Oxford comma” no se usa en español.
The so-called Oxford comma is not used in Spanish.
El presidente señaló que la economía está “mejor que nunca”.
The president said that the economy is “better than ever.”
Guion Largo o Raya – Em Dash
The raya is used to clarify something, in a similar way to parentheses. It can also be used to indicate each person’s speech in a dialogue.
— Este libro es mío.—dijo María con calma.
— Lo siento, no lo sabía.—respondió Carlos.
“This is my book,” said María calmly.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know,” answered Carlos.
Guion Corto – Hyphen
Shorter than the raya (corto means “short”), this guion is used to unite words to form a complex term and to serve as a link between two numbers that form an interval. A good way to differentiate between both guiones is to remember that we use the raya to “separate” and the guion corto to “unite.”
How to Use Special Characters in Spanish
When learning about punctuation marks, special characters and other symbols in Spanish, you discover the challenge involved in typing them on an electronic device.
At the beginning of the computer age, this was a real challenge. Nowadays, it’s still an issue but not as complicated as it used to be. If you want to be able to type anything in Spanish, I recommend reading this post.
Acentos – Accent Marks
The accent marks are the most common special characters and symbols in Spanish that you need to learn. We write them on top of vowels to mark where a word is stressed.
Diéresis – Umlaut
In Spanish, you only use the umlaut when you have a gue or gui syllable and you want to include the sound of the letter u. In other words, if you don’t add the umlaut, that u between the g and the e or i, would be silent.
This letter doesn’t exist in English, but it’s important in Spanish. Its sound is similar to the “ny” sound of an English word such as “canyon.”
How to Use Other Symbols in Spanish
Besides the special characters mentioned above, there are other symbols in Spanish that you need to master. These symbols are mostly related to money or the internet and are pretty much the same as in English.
I’m talking about symbols such as $, €, #, @, *, and /. In all these cases, their use in Spanish is exactly the same as in English, although the way to type them can vary depending on your keyboard settings.
¿Quién Hablará con el Niño Bilingüe?
Who will talk with the bilingual boy? That question may not make a lot of sense to you, but please notice how many of the new punctuation marks, special characters, and other symbols in Spanish it includes.
You learned all of them just by reading this single blog post. Imagine what you could do, if you were to engage in real life conversations with native Spanish speaker teachers. Learn to write and speak like a pro by signing up for a free class!
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