French Language French Grammar: «Punctuation»

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Ponctuation francaise.png

The French punctuation is not very different from English punctuation, Spanish or German.

However, there are small differences explained in this article.

One-part punctuation marks[edit | edit source]

Le point final (the end period)[edit | edit source]

The period at the end of a sentence marks the right limit, the left limit being marked by the capital letter.

The end period is placed directly after the last word. To begin another sentence, you need a space between the end point and the capital letter of the next sentence.

  • Le chat dort. Il est paisible. J'aimerais être comme lui
The cat is sleeping. It's peaceful. I would like to be like him.

La virgule (the comma)[edit | edit source]

The comma separates words or group of words. The comma is placed directly after the word and is followed by a space between it and the next word.

  • La Belgique, le Luxembourg, l'Allemagne, la Suisse, l'Italie et l'Espagne sont des pays voisins de la France.
Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and Spain are the countries neighboring France.

You can place a comma after a group of words placed at the begining of the sentense.

  • Cette semaine, nous avons trois réunions.
This week we have three meetings.

But we cannot put a comma between the verb and its subject ...

  • "Magalie viendra ce soir." and not "Magalie, viendra ce soir."
Magalie will come tonight.

Unless an additional information is between the two.

  • Magalie, que tu connais, viendra ce soir.
Magalie, you know her, comes tonight.

Two-part punctuation marks[edit | edit source]

La point virgule (the semicolon)[edit | edit source]

The semicolon can complete a sentence, but it never ends a text. When a sentence is a close connection with the one before it, it is separated by a semicolon and not by a point. There is no capital letter starting the word that follows the semicolon, unless it is a name. It is separated from the preceding word by a space and followed by a space between it and the next word.

  • Il s'était caché ; il pouvait ainsi les observer très attentivement.
He was hidden; he could observe them very carefully.

Les deux-points (the colon)[edit | edit source]

The colon is common in Frenc. It may introduce direct speech; a citation; or the explanation, conclusion, summary, etc. of whatever precedes it.

The colon is used to announce a quote with quotation marks. It is separated from the preceding word by a space and will be followed by a space.

  • Les pays voisins de la France sont : la Belgique, le Luxembourg, l'Allemagne, la Suisse, l'Italie et l'Espagne.
The neighboring countries of France are: Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and Spain.
  • L'auteur affirme : « L'art n'est que rêve ».
The author says: "Art is only a dream."

The colon is also used to mark a logical link between the two proposals (cause, consequence ...).

  • Il ne sera pas là : il n'a pas été prévenu.
He will not be there: he was not warned.

Le point d'exclamation (the exclamation point)[edit | edit source]

The exclamation point is placed: - At the end of an exclamatory sentence

  • Comme il est grand !
How tall is he!

- After the interjections. When following interjection, it is often added also at the end of sentence.

  • Zut ! j'ai oublié la réunion !
Heck! I forgot the meeting!

It is separated from the preceding word by a space and followed by a space.

Should there be a capital letter after an exclamation point? It all depends on the following sentence.

- If it is a continuation of the previous sentence, there is no capital letter:

  • Tiens ! puisque tu es là, aide-moi !
Look! since you're here, help me!

- If the sentence is a new sentence, it requires a capital letter:

  • Comme tu es belle ! Je me souviens qu'à ton âge, j'étais comme toi.
How beautiful you are ! I remember I was like you at your age.

Le point d'interrogation (the question mark)[edit | edit source]

The question mark ends any direct questioning. It is separated from the preceding word by a space and followed by a space.

  • Qui était présent la dernière fois ?
Who was there the last time?

However, indirect questions never ends with a question mark.

  • Je ne sais pas qui était présent la dernière fois.
I do not know who was there last time.

Les points de suspension (the ellipsis)[edit | edit source]

In French, an interruption or trailing off of speech can be indicated with ellipsis.

They are not separated from the preceding word by a space but followed by a space between them and the next word.

  • Je ne vous raconte pas la fin...
I cannot tell you the end ...

VIDEOS[edit | edit source]

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What differences have you found between the French punctuation and the one of your native language?

PLease post a comment below... :)