Brackets, Braces, and Parentheses

Actually, there are four different types of brackets. In this lesson, we will study all the rules about these punctuation marks.

What Are Brackets, Braces, and Parentheses in English?

What Are Brackets?

Mainly, there are four different types of brackets as follows:

  • [ ]
  • { }
  • < >
  • ( )

[ ] are also called square brackets. { } are also called curly brackets, < > are also called angle brackets. Finally ( ) are round brackets that are also called parentheses.
Remember curly brackets are also called braces.

Square Brackets Functions

Let's see some of the functions of these [ ] brackets

  • to put idea in an original text
  • for clarification
  • to add extra information
  • to place the words that have been left out or mis-spelled
  • to add information within parentheses

To put idea in an original text

Brackets can let you the person to add their idea or opinion in the original text. Here for example:

She [the sister of the girl] was feeling jealus.

here the writer has not mention the information but this was gien by another person.

We need the house [his childhood house] to be rebuilt.

For clarification

Let's go through an example for this one:

She [my mother] didn't like my idea about not going to college .

We make it clear in the brackets that who we mean by "she".

Pinocchio [the wooden boy] was played by Pitter Nyao.

To add extra information

When we want to add extra information about something in our sentence we can use brackets, for example:

All the ingredients [salt, pepper, garlic powder and turmeric] must be added at the same time.

He was going to order his special sandwhich [zuccini and cheese].

To place the words that have been left out or mis-spelled

When there is a word mis-spelled or omitted by the writer, we can use brackets to correct it. For instance:

She has [a] good idea.

The "a" was left out from the sentence.

I want to leave [sic] for ever.

we use [sic] to show that the writer has misspelled the word, here we know the writer meant to write "live" and not leave.

To add information within parentheses

Sometimes we want to add information within the parentheses, we can use brackets for that.

The boxes contain all my stuff (my shoes, my dresses[formal ones] and my bags)

It (World's Health Organization [WHO]) has warned the people of the new virus.

Parentheses Functions

Parentheses are usually containing extra information that is not essential to our sentence. We should know that no matter what we place inside the parentheses, the sentence should still make sense if we omit the parentheses from it. Also remember we are not allowed to put more than one paragraph inside the parentheses. Let’s check some other functions of the parentheses as well:

  • to give more information
  • to show personal opinions/comments
  • for Abbreviation
  • Setting off Numbers and Letters
  • to give options
  • for academic papers

To give more information

We can give information set off by parentheses. This piece of information can either be important or extra information. Omitting this information shoul not change the meaning of our sentence. These are the examples:

The doctor did what was possible (they couldn't help more than this).

We spent the whole night in a camping tent (cold and wet).

To show personal opinions/comments

We can use parentheses to show our opinion or idea without changing the original text.

Most people like to go for a jog in the mornings (I don't), which is very healthy.

He said he will stop chasing his dream (he wouldn't dare) and just do whatever job they offer him.

For Abbreviation

We can use parentheses to clear the abbreviation in the sentence:

The UN (United Nation) decided to postpone the meeting.

He said visiting NYC (New York city ) was his long dream.

Setting off Numbers and Letters

When listing items, we usually use numbers or letters which in this case, they are put inside parentheses. Here are a few examples:

Remember to take: (1) towel (2) tooth brush (3) hair brush.

The reasons Ross loves Racheal: (a) she is smart (b) she is brave enough to start a new life (c) she is beautiful.


We have discussed that both brackets and parentheses can be used to give additional information. the only difference between them is that when we use brackets there is almost always an indirect or direct speech. But when we use parentheses there is a piece of general information. For example:

Sarah said she would talk to Mr. Johns [the manager].

There were fifteen dead people (dead because of choking).

To give options

We can use parentheses to give the option of the word being singular or plural.

Keep your shoe(s) away from the white carpet.

For academic papers

We can also use parentheses to explain our sources in academic papers.

Braces Functions

Braces are usually used in mathematic and science. They can also follow the purpose of brackets and parentheses but rarely. They are usually used with the name of substances or with numbers. Here are the examples:

2{1 + [32 + 3]}


Here are some other functions of braces:

  • making lists of options

Which one would you like to eat {ice cream, pizza, bread and cheese or rice}?

  • to make list of chords in music
  • to make list of numbers and sets in math

Angle brackets Functions

Here are < > angle brackets sometimes called chevrons. This punctuation is very rarely used in writings. We can find them mostly in mathematic or computer programming.

What do they do?

In some languages they use this punctuation instead of the quotation marks. In English they are used to set aside information (which most of the writers use parentheses for) or to introduce websites or when something is being spoken in a foreign language. We should know that these are used very rarely even in informal writings.

  • Set aside information

My dog is drowning again <<I don't know why it keeps jumping in the pool>>.

Writers use double pair of angle brackets to set aside information.

  • In comic books they are used to show a foreign language is being spoken

Australian guy : Excuse me where is the library?

French boy : << what is he saying?>>

French girl : << I don't know maybe he wants some money?>>

  • To introduce websites

For more information, you can read the article in <>


Brackets are categorized into four groups.

  • square brackets [ ]
  • curly brackets or braces { }
  • round bracket or parentheses ( )
  • angle brackets < >


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