Quotation Marks

Quotation marks are punctuations that are used to express a direct speech, phrase, or quotation. In this lesson, we will learn all about them.

Quotation Marks in English

What Are Quotation Marks?

Quotation marks (also called quotes, speech marks, quote marks) are a kind of punctuation mark (" ") used to indicate the beginning and end of a direct quote or a piece of dialogue.

Quotation Marks: Uses

Quotation marks ('') are used when there is a direct reported speech. They are also used to avoid repetition in a list. There are two kinds of speech marks: single (‘) and double (“). They usually do the same thing and can be used interchangeably. But there are cases where it’s better to use one of them in particular.

  • direct speech
  • quotations
  • emphasis on a word or phrase
  • to show irony, skepticism and sarcasm
  • when the words are not used in their literal meaning
  • when you refer to words as ‘words’

Here are a few examples:

He asked, "why are you laughing?"

direct speech

She murmured, "stupid boy."


You can see that 'everybody' is taking part in my lecture.

emphasis on a word or phrase

I don't like this 'music' of his.

to show irony, skepticism and sarcasm (here the writer means this is not music)

The TV 'knows' when I have homework, it starts playing all the good shows.

the words not being used in their literal (the TV cannot know anything)

How do you spell 'humidity'?

refering to words as 'words'

How Do We Use Quotation Marks?

There are some rules to be observed in order to use quotation marks correctly. Follow the article:

Quotation Marks and Reported Speech

Quotation marks cannot be used with indirect speech, but they can be used in pairs to set off direct speech. Here are some examples:

❌She wanted to know "who was the lead actor."

indirect speech

✔She asked," Who is the lead actor."

direct speech

Using quotation marks in a sentence


When using quotation marks to set off a sentence, you should always capitalize the first letter of the first word of the sentence, even when it is used in the mid-position. Check out these examples:

Pink shouted, "Stop."

We said, " No, you should take control of your life."

When we put a phrase inside quotation marks and the phrase is at the middle of the sentence, you should not use capital letters, unless it is a proper name.

He found the "body" inside the river.

We found "Ian" dead, on the corner of "Elm street."

Punctuation Rules

Comma and period are always placed inside the quotation marks, while dashes, hyphens, colons, and semi-colons are almost always placed outside the quotation marks. Question marks and exclamation marks can be either inside or outside the quotation marks. If they apply to the whole sentence, then they must be outside the quotation marks. For example:

We said, "We want the phone number."

She asked, "What is your name?"

Important Words

Sometimes, some phrases and words are important in a specific context or they need to be stressed and highlighted in the sentence. In this case, you can put them in quotation marks. For example:

"Adverbs" are used to define "verbs," "adjectives," or other "adverbs."

"The reporters" spent the whole night at his door.


In the preceding examples, you can never use a single quotation.

Single Quotation Marks

The choice between using 'single' or "double" quotation marks depends on whether you want to use American or British English. In the American English convention, it is preferred to use double quotation marks, while the British English convention prefers single quotation marks. Also Single quotation marks are used for quotes within quotes. Single quotation marks can also be used instead of parentheses, when they are used to express alternatives or definitions. Here are the examples:

He said, "Alex would say, 'Yes' to the request."

She said ciao 'Hi' to me.


Double quotations are also used in a list to avoid repetition. Notice that each ('') indicates one word, like:

What adverbs do we need?
to talk about how things are done adverbs of manner
to talk about how we react to something ''
to talk about imaginary situations ''


Quotation marks are ('). They can be used as:

  • single quotation marks (' ')
  • paired quotation marks (" ")

These quotation marks are used to indicate:

  • direct speech
  • quotation
  • phrases (special)


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