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Upside Down Punctuation...


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In Spanish, it's incorrect to leave them out. Languages have different punctuation rules, I'm not exactly sure what the "¿" or "¡" marks are for. According to Wikipedia:

"This helps to recognize questions and exclamations in long sentences. "Do you like summer?" and "You like summer." are translated respectively as "¿Te gusta el verano?" and "Te gusta el verano." (There is no difference between the wording of a question and a statement in Spanish as there is in English.)"

Even then, there were works of Spanish literature as late as the nineteenth century that did not include the inverted punctuation mark. Eventually it became universally adopted though.

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Correct grammar requires both opening and closing question and admiration marks.

As noted by thekernel, it's incorrect leave them out, but they are often omitted due to a simple and plain reason; most keyboards do not have these punctuation marks nor the "ñ" unless you have a Spanish keyword and have set Spanish as your operating system language.

However you can get these characters by using your ALT key and a number combination regardless the kind of keyboard you have or your default OS language setting, http://www.ascii-code.com/

In addition, this guide shows you how to switch in Windows from a US-keyboard setting to a Spanish version, http://www.trinity.edu/mstroud/spanish/acentos.html

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hmm I have always been wondering why you would use 2 question marks in a sentence instead of one. I just don't get it. The upside down question mark just looks so wierd, when I have first seen this years ago, I thought this was a joke  :grin:

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Correct grammar requires both opening and closing question and admiration marks.

As noted by thekernel, it's incorrect leave them out, but they are often omitted due to a simple and plain reason; most keyboards do not have these punctuation marks nor the "ñ" unless you have a Spanish keyword and have set Spanish as your operating system language.

However you can get these characters by using your ALT key and a number combination regardless the kind of keyboard you have or your default OS language setting, http://www.ascii-code.com/

In addition, this guide shows you how to switch in Windows from a US-keyboard setting to a Spanish version, http://www.trinity.edu/mstroud/spanish/acentos.html

Thanks for the info! I have my keyboard set to international and that has been extremely helpful to me, but I didn't know that these special punctuation marks were available there as well!

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  • 1 year later...

One simple sentence could have two different meanings depending on how you say it with the help of your intonation and feelings. Notice how the Spanish speakers tend to use a lot of hand gestures and facial expressions? The punctuation marks I think do the same function.

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To me it was  so weird that  in English you only use one question and exclamation mark :P  I thought it was odd, because I grew up being taught how important it was to open and close a question or an expression with opening and closing question/exclamation marks. 

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  • 2 years later...
18 hours ago, Dannylearns said:

oh i am glad to read that it is ok to leave it out. It saves effort trying to find the key.. is it also OK to leave it out in official documentation/documents?

Hi there, everyone!

Hope I can offer some help as a native speaker of Spanish.

Not using the symbol ¿ to open a question is always a mistake. You'll always find it in official documents, textbooks, letters and so on. It is true, though, that due to the influence of English you'll see a lot of people writing things like "Qué tal?" in chats, whatsapp and the internet in general. It is a common use, but it's incorrect.

Some of you were also saying that it looks weird to have the symbol ¿, but it's necessary in Spanish, a language with extremely long sentences sometimes. I'll try to give you an example:

"Aunque tengas dinero y tengas muchísimas ganas de irte a París con tus amigos de la universidad, ¿no crees que deberías pensar en tu familia e irte con ellos de vacaciones?"

In English, for example, the question would start with "don't you think...", that is, a change in the order of words that indicates the beginning of a question. However, in Spanish we don't change the order of words, so you may not realize someone's asking a question until you reach the end of such a long sentence. If you're reading out loud it's weird, because if you don't see the ¿ or it's not written, you'll need to go back and read the sentence again to change the intonation.

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  • 2 months later...
On 06/10/2013 at 1:53 PM, yellowbird said:

What does an upside down question mark and exclamation point necessarily mean? Is it grammatically incorrect to not use them?

Interestingly enough, a few weeks ago, I came across an article that addresses this topic. It was originally published by BBCMundo and then it was replicated by the Colombian magazine "Semana". It could provide you with some complementary and useful information on the matter; additional to the valuable and relevant information that other members of this community have already shared with us in this thread. 

http://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-40643378

http://www.semana.com/educacion/articulo/signos-de-interrogacion-y-admiracion-en-espanol/541754

The article provides some history and context about how we ended up using "opening" (I guess you call them "inverted") question and exclamation marks in Spanish. By the way, did you know that exclamation marks were previously called "admiration marks" in Spanish (signos de admiración)?  As the author mentions in the article, the official name change from "signos de admiración" to "signos de exclamación" is really recent (2014). Anyway, as you already know, it is grammatically incorrect not to use them and be also aware that even native speakers of Spanish tend to leave them out both in formal and in informal writing. I myself, being a native speaker of Spanish, try to correct my colleagues and friends whenever they omit them and I always use opening / inverted question and exclamation marks even if I am just chatting by Skype or Whatsapp. 

P.S. If you happen to have trouble understanding some of the expressions or context contained in the article or if you have any question about it, I would be happy to to try to clarify them to you. 

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