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A quick guide to French punctuation.

Perfect your French punctuation with our handy guide...

© G Murray
© G Murray

 

When writing in French, you should know that there are several differences in how punctuation marks are used. For the most part, these are fairly minor. However, it's always best to get into good habits, as this will contribute to how convincingly you communicate with your written French.

 

The major French punctuation marks are the same as in English, but some are used slightly differently:

 

le point - full stop or period. You're safe to use this in the same way as you would when writing English.

 

la virgule - comma. The comma is used in pretty much the same way. However, it is also employed when writing numbers. Whereas we write "one point two five" as 1.25, the French write 1,25 and say "un virgule vingt-cinq".

 

: les deux-points - colon

; le point-virgule - semi-colon

! le point d’exclamation - exclamation mark/point

? le point d’interrogation - question mark

 

Although these 4 'two-part' punctuation marks have the same meaning as in English there is one fundamental way that they differ. They are always preceded by a space. Mais, oui : c'est vrai !

Now for something completely different. Les guillemets are French quotation marks. Rather than "..." however, the French use « ... ». Note something else here: being another example of two-part punctuation marks, there is always a space between the punctuation and the word or words between them. Find the ways to type them here. If you can't manage to type them, English quotation marks will be understood (but leave the spaces).

 

You can use all the following punctuation in the same way as in English:

' une apostrophe - apostrophe
...  les points (m) de suspension - ellipsis
- un trait d'union - hyphen or dash
—  un tiret - m-dash
(  ) les parenthèses (f) -  brackets or parentheses
& une esperluette  -  ampersand
* un astérisque - asterisk
# un dièse (Fr), un carré (Can) - hash or pound (US) sign

@ une arobase - the "at" symbol

 

At first it might look strange to use punctuation in a different way than you are used to, but when you read French, you will notice that it really is just how the French do it. So just embrace it!