What Are Quotation Marks? (with Examples)

by Craig Shrives

Quotation Marks

Quotation marks ("") are punctuation marks used in pairs to:
  • (1) To identify previously spoken or written words. For example:
    • The philosopher Socrates said: "The poets are only the interpreters of the gods."
  • (2) To signify so-called or alleged. For example:
    • I bought this "fresh" fish an hour ago.
  • (3) To highlight the name of things like ships, books, and plays. For example:
    • I served on the "Ark Royal."
  • (4) To show that a word refers to the word itself not the word's meaning. For example:
    • "Dogs" is plural.
Quotation marks are also known as "speech marks," "quotes," and "inverted commas."

quotation marks


Read more about using quotation marks.

More Examples of Quotation Marks in Sentences

Here are some more examples of quotation marks in sentences.

(1) Quotation marks to identify previously spoken or written words
  • George Bernard Shaw said: "When a thing is funny, search it carefully for a hidden truth."
  • (When a quotation is introduced with words like He said, He whispered, He wrote, it is usual to precede the quotation with a comma or a colon.)
  • If you think what your uncle said is funny, then you should take Shaw's advice and "search it carefully for a hidden truth."
  • (When a quotation is used as part of a sentence, do not introduce it with a comma or a colon.)
Read about placing punctuation inside and outside a quotation.
Read about introducing a quotation with a comma, a colon, or nothing.
Read about using square parentheses (brackets) with a quotation.

(2) Quotation marks to signify so-called or alleged
  • So, when are you and your "girlfriend" leaving?
  • My "mates" drove off with my clothes, leaving me in the lake.
Read more about quotation marks to signify so-called or alleged.

(3) Quotation marks to highlight the name of things like ships, books, and plays.
  • "The Herald of Free Enterprise" was a passenger ferry which capsized moments after leaving the Belgian port of Zeebrugge on the night of 6 March 1987.
  • Did you watch "Billy Elliot" in the West End?
Read more about quotation marks for ships, books, and plays.

(4) To show that a word refers to the word itself not the word's meaning.
  • Is "data" plural?
  • In the US, "dependent" is used for both the adjective and the noun. In the UK, "dependant" is a noun, and "dependent" is an adjective.

Types of Quotation Marks

Quotation marks come in two forms: singles ('like these') and doubles ("like these"). In other languages (e.g., Russian), angle brackets («like these») are often used.

The most common convention is to start with doubles and then nest singles within them when quotation marks are required within the doubles. For example:
  • She said: "My dog can say 'sausages' much more clearly than the one on TV."
  • Homer Simpson said: "Maybe, just once, someone will call me 'Sir' without adding 'you're making a scene'."
(This is called nesting quotations.)

Some writers think double quotation marks look too stark, and they like to start with singles and nest doubles within them. For example:
  • Homer Simpson said: 'Maybe, just once, someone will call me "Sir" without adding "you're making a scene".'
Read more about single and double quotation marks.

Other Punctuation Marks

Here is a slider with lessons to the other punctuation marks:
Read more about using quotation marks.

Why Should I Care about Quotation Marks?

Here are the most common questions related to question marks: Read more about using quotation marks.
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

Placing punctuation inside and outside a quotation Introducing a quotation with a comma, a colon, or nothing Using square parentheses (brackets) with a quotation Using quotation marks to signify so-called or alleged Using quotation marks for ships, books, and plays More about single and double quotation marks Glossary of grammatical terms