How to Use Angular Quotation Marks in Spanish

Writing Habla Espanol

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Spanish sometimes uses angular quotation marks ("«" and "»") — often known as chevrons or guillemets or "comillas franceses" and "comillas angulares" in Spanish — interchangeably with and in the same way as regular double quotation marks.

In general, they are used much more in Spain than in Latin America, possibly because guillemets are commonly used in various non-English European languages such as ​​French.

In all Spanish, however, quote marks of either the angular or regular variety are used much as they are in English, most often to quote from someone's speech or writing or to call attention to words that are given a special or ironic use.

The Difference in Punctuation

The main difference between Spanish usage and that of American English is that added commas and periods in Spanish go outside the quotation marks, while in American English they go inside the quotation marks. A pair of examples show how these marks are used:

  • "Ninguna mente extraordinaria está exenta de un toque de demencia", dijo Aristóteles. / «Ninguna mente extraordinaria está exenta de un toque de demencia», dijo Aristóteles.
    • "No extraordinary mind is free of a touch of insanity," Aristotle said.
  • Tengo una "hija". Tiene cuatro patas y maulla. / Tengo una «hija». Tiene cuatro patas y maulla.
    • I have one "daughter." She has four legs and meows.

If you have a quotation within the words that are enclosed by angular quote marks, use the standard double quotation marks: «Él me dijo, "Estoy muy feliz"». "He told me, 'I am very happy.'"

Long (Em) Dashes and Paragraph Spacing

Keep in mind that it is common when printing dialogue in Spanish to dispense with quote marks entirely and use a long dash ("—"), sometimes known as an em dash or "raya" in Spanish, to indicate the beginning and end of the quotation or a change in speaker.

It isn't necessary — although it's often done — to start a new paragraph for a change of speaker, as is usually done in English. No dash is needed at the end of a quotation if it is at the end of a paragraph. Different usages are illustrated in the following three example pairs:

  • —¡Cuidado!— gritó.
    • "Careful!" he shouted.
  • —¿Cómo estás? —Muy bien, gracias.
    • "How are you?"
    • "Excellent, thank you."
  • —Si quieres tener amigos— me decía mi madre—, sé un amigo.
    • "If you want to have friends," my mother told me, "be a friend."

In each of these cases, Spanish grammar dictates that the punctuation still belongs outside of the quotation signifier, except in the case that the sentence begins with a punctuation mark such as "¡Cuidado!" or "¿Cómo estás?"