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FAQ s About Spanish Punctuation

The use of punctuation in Spanish can be a bit tricky (for example, remember that our language is one of the few that uses question marks and exclamation points at the beginning and at the end of a sentence). In fact, we can even go so far as to say that there are questions that are even difficult for native Spanish speakers to solve. So what are they, you may ask.

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1.  Can you use periods or commas within questions or exclamations? The answer is yes. That being said, it’s important to keep in mind that questions should start with lowercase letters if they start after a comma: ¿Qué te ha dicho?, ¿qué te ha hecho?, ¿qué pasó después? (What did he tell you? What did he do to you? What happened after?)

2. It’s easy to remember the lesson that tells us pronouns and adverbs found in questions must use a “cursed” accentCómo estás?, ¿dónde te veré mañana?, ¿por qué el destino te trajo a mí? (How are you? Where will I see you tomorrow? Why did fate bring you to me?). But you should also keep in mind that these words need to include an accent when they are used in indirect questions: Me preguntó cómo estaba, dónde me verá mañana y por qué el destino me llevó a él. (I wondered how he was, where he would see me tomorrow and why destiny brought me to him.)

3. But sometimes, and this is very common, accentuation depends on if the sentence is exclamatory or interrogative or not. Here’s an example, you tell a friend: Creo que mi gato se ha comido tus deberes (I think my cat ate your homework) and the friend responds, ¿Que tu gato ha hecho qué con mis deberes? (You think your cat did what with my homework?).

4. This one is a question a lot of people worry about: does the period go before or after quotation marks and parenthesis? The answer is that the punctuation mark always goes after quotation marks and parenthesis. For example: Me dijo tranquilo “Me comí tu paella impunemente”.  (He told me worry-free, “I ate your paella and I didn’t care.”) But also: Me dijo tranquilo  “Me comí tu paella” (como ya era costumbre). (He told me worry-free, “I ate your paella” (as usual)).

5. Suppose we want to express a question that also expresses surprise or we want to express surprise that also includes a question. In this case we can use question marks or exclamation points as we see fit, but we also have to use them symmetrically: ¡¿Qué hace tu perro conduciendo mi coche?!  or ¿¡Qué hace tu perro conduciendo mi coche!? (What is your dog doing driving my car?!).

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These are the questions you will probably encounter when you start to use punctuation in Spanish. But of course, if you have any other questions, all you have to do is ask.

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