Inverted commas

Words serve as the foundation of our communication, but punctuation is the glue that holds our sentences together. In the heart of punctuation marks, we find inverted commas. This seemingly small mark, punctuating our sentences, carries a power that often goes unnoticed. 

Inverted commas Inverted commas

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    This article will take a deep dive into the world of inverted commas, uncovering their meaning, usage, types, and providing real-life examples to make this knowledge stick.

    Inverted commas: punctuation

    Inverted commas, often referred to as quotation marks, are used in written language to denote speech, quotes, or to highlight specific words or phrases. They are punctuation makes that bring clarity to our written expressions, making our intent clear and our communication effective. They come in two main types:

    • single inverted commas ('...') and,
    • double inverted commas ("...").

    Before we dive deeper, let's answer one burning question: 'What's the importance of inverted commas?' They serve as a clear way to signal direct speech, quotations from different sources, and to emphasize or denote irony or unfamiliar terms. Without them, understanding written language would be much trickier.

    Punctuation rules

    Punctuation rules for inverted commas can vary between American and British English, but here are some general guidelines:

    Placement of Commas and Periods

    In both American and British English, commas and periods are usually placed inside the inverted commas, whether they belong to the quoted material or not.

    For example:

    • American: "I love this song," she said.
    • British: 'I love this song,' she said.

    Placement of Colons and Semicolons

    Colons and semicolons should be placed outside the inverted commas, regardless of whether you're using American or British English.

    For example:

    • "The poem is called 'And Still I Rise'; have you read it?"

    Placement of Question Marks and Exclamation Points

    The placement of question marks and exclamation points depends on whether they are part of the quoted material or not. If they are part of the quoted material, they should be placed inside the inverted commas. If they're not, they should be placed outside.

    For example:

    • "Did she really say, 'I'm leaving'?"
    • "I can't believe he shouted, 'I won'!"

    Quotes within Quotes

    When a quote is within another quote, single and double inverted commas are used alternatively. In American English, double quotes are used for the outer quote, and single quotes for the inner quote. In British English, it's the other way around.

    For example:

    • American: "She said, 'I love this song.'"
    • British: 'She said, "I love this song."'

    Titles of Works

    For titles of works like books, poems, songs, articles, etc., double inverted commas are used in American English, and single inverted commas are used in British English.

    For example:

    • American: My favorite poem is "The Wasteland."
    • British: My favourite poem is 'Ode to a Grecian Urn.'

    Inverted commas examples

    To grasp the full scope of inverted commas' application, let's look at some examples.

    Examples of inverted commas
    Single inverted commasDouble inverted commas
    'Sarcasm', she noted, 'isn't everyone's cup of tea.'"I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat," said Winston Churchill.
    'Eureka!' he exclaimed, 'I've found the solution!'"To be or not to be, that is the question," pondered Hamlet.
    'I can't believe it's already Friday,' Sarah mused."Would you like a cup of tea?" she asked.
    'E=mc^2' is Einstein's most famous equation.As the famous saying goes, "The early bird catches the worm."
    She referred to him as her 'knight in shining armour'."In the end, we only regret the chances we didn't take," he read from his favourite book.

    Inverted commas meaning

    Inverted commas, also known as quotation marks, serve a range of purposes in our written language. Their primary function is to set off direct speech, quoted text, and certain types of titles. They can also be used to indicate a special meaning of a word or phrase, like when it is used ironically or when it refers to a specific term or phrase in a particular field.

    Single inverted commas

    In British English, single inverted commas are typically used to mark direct speech or quotations. When a quotation is embedded within another, double inverted commas are used for the embedded quote.

    For example: 'John said, "I'll be there soon."' Here, the overall statement is framed by single inverted commas, while the quoted speech is within double inverted commas.

    Double inverted commas

    In contrast, American English tends to use double inverted commas as the standard for quotations and direct speech. Using the previous example but applying American punctuation rules, it would be: "John said, 'I'll be there soon.'" Here, the overall statement is in double inverted commas, while the quoted speech is in single inverted commas.

    Speech Marks or Inverted Commas

    The terms 'speech marks' and 'inverted commas' are actually interchangeable. Both these terms refer to the same punctuation mark, used to indicate direct speech, quoted text, or to give special meaning to a word or phrase. Whether you call them speech marks or inverted commas usually depends on where you're from – the UK or the US.

    Usage of inverted commas

    Inverted commas are employed in various situations in writing. These include:

    • Indicating direct speech: "I'm going for a walk," she said.
    • Denoting a quote from a text: As Shakespeare once wrote, "All the world's a stage."
    • Highlighting an unusual term: The 'Internet of Things' is transforming how we live.
    • Indicating a title: Have you read the poem 'Daffodils' by William Wordsworth?
    • Signifying irony: He's a real 'genius'.

    Inverted commas, whether you call them speech marks or quotation marks, play an indispensable role in our written language. They breathe life into the text, transforming plain sentences into dynamic expressions of human speech, thought, and emotion. They are our silent allies, guiding us through the complex landscape of written communication. So, the next time you draft a text, take a moment to appreciate these unassuming punctuation marks.

    Inverted Commas - Key takeaways

    • Inverted commas, often referred to as quotation marks, are used in written language to denote direct speech, quotes, or to highlight specific words or phrases.
    • British English typically uses single inverted commas.
    • American English tends to use double inverted commas.
    • The terms 'speech marks' and 'inverted commas' are actually interchangeable; both these terms refer to the same punctuation mark.
    • Examples of the usage of inverted commas include indicating direct speech, denoting a quote from a text, highlighting an unusual term, indicating a title, and signifying irony.
    Inverted commas Inverted commas
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    Frequently Asked Questions about Inverted commas

    What are inverted commas? 

    Inverted commas, also known as quotation marks, are punctuation marks used to signify direct speech, quotes, or to emphasize particular words or phrases in written text.

    When to use inverted commas?

    Inverted commas are used to indicate direct speech, denote quotes from different sources, highlight unusual or specialized terms, denote irony or sarcasm, or indicate the title of books, songs, and articles.

    How to use inverted commas?

    Inverted commas are placed at the beginning and end of the direct speech or quoted text. They can also surround special terms or phrases. For example: 

    • 'Hello,' she said.
    • The term 'metaphor' refers to a figure of speech.

    What are some examples of the use of inverted commas? 

    Some examples of the use of inverted commas include: 

    1. Direct Speech: "I'm going for a walk," she said.

    2. Quoting a Text: As Shakespeare once wrote, "All the world's a stage."

    3. Highlighting Unusual or Specialized Terms: The term 'Internet of Things' is transforming how we live.

    4. Denoting Irony: He's a real 'genius', isn't he?

    5. Indicating a Title: I've just finished reading 'To Kill a Mockingbird'.

    How to type single inverted commas on the keyboard?

    Typing single inverted commas depends on your keyboard layout. For most keyboards, it's as simple as pressing the key next to the 'Enter' key without using Shift. If it types a double quote, press Shift along with it for a single quote.

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