Basic Punctuation in English

Basic Punctuation in English


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How to use punctuation in English?

The period (.) and comma (,)

We say period in American English and full stop in British English. It’s used to mark the end of a sentence. We also use it:

  • After the abbreviations: Ms. Smith (Mrs. or Miss Smith)
  • Before the decimals: 1.7 (one point seven)
  • In the email addresses: google.com (Google dot com, or Google dot com).

In English, the comma is used to mark the addition of a comment in a sentence.

Compare the following sentences:

  • Her sister, who is a doctor, lives in New York. 
  • Her sister who is a doctor lives in New York. 

In dialogues, the comma is placed before the quotation marks:

  • “You should leave,” he said. → «Tu devrais partir», dit-il.

THE OTHER SIGNS

The dash (-) sometimes replaces the period or comma in emails and SMS:

  • If you cook some pasta – or a pizza – keep some for me in the fridge. 

Apostrophes (‘) are used to mark possession:

  • This is my friend’s car. 

They are also used for word contractions:

  • She’s leaving tomorrow. 

It is also used instead of suspension points (in a sentence left open, to indicate hesitation for example):

  • So – you’re going to the cinema again? 

The exclamation mark is used to express strong emotion, anger or surprise:

  • How can people behave like that! 
  • Catch them all. 

⚠ Be careful, in English we don’t put spaces before punctuation marks ; ! ? :

Quotation marks in English ” “ (or “”) are used to frame quotations and are placed after the comma and period.

  • Albert Camus said, “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” 

USEFUL VOCABULARY

SIGN NOM ANGLAIS
. a full stop
() brackets / parentheses (US)
dots
: a colon
” ” ou “” in inverted commas
/ a slash
! an exclamation mark
? a question mark
; a semi-colon
– (between two words) a hyphen
a dash
, a comma

 

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