French Punctuation

When learning a foreign language, people often tend to disregard punctuation. However, it is also an important aspect of a language. And particular attention is needed when it differs quite a lot from your native language.

While French punctuation is in many ways similar to English or other Indo-European languages, there are some important differences that you need to know to master the language.

The major French punctuation marks are familiar and easily recognizable: there’s le point (period), la virgule (comma), les deux-points (colon), le point-virgule (semicolon), le point d’exclamation (exclamation point), and le point d’interrogation (question mark).

One of the main distinguishing features of French punctuation is the use of the space between the words and other punctuation marks.

Generally, in the French language, colons, semicolons, exclamation points, and question marks are all preceded by a space. However, outside of France, this rule is often ignored.

  • Lesquelles préférez-vous : les pommes ou les oranges ? - Les pommes !
  • Which do you prefer: apples or oranges? - Apples!

The French do not use quotation marks (" ") common in many other languages to denote speech. Instead, they use les guillemets (« »). These are used in mostly the same way that, for instance, English quotation marks are employed, although with the addition of an extra space after the opening guillemet and before the closing guillemet. For example:

  • Sarah a dit : « Je vais au cinéma. »
  • Sarah said: "I am going to the movie theatre."

Longer dialogues are also presented differently in French. Guillemets are usually used only at the beginning and end of an entire conversation.

Unlike, for instance, in English, where any non-speech is found outside of the quotation marks, in French guillemets do not end when an incidental clause (he said, she smiled, etc.) is added. To indicate that a new person is speaking, atiret (m-dash or em-dash) is added.

Compare the punctuation of these two dialogues:

« Salut Jeanne ! dit Pierre. Comment vas-tu ?"Hi, Jean!" Pierre says. "How are you?"
— Ah, salut Pierre ! crie Jeanne."Oh, hi, Pierre!" shouts Jeanne.
— As-tu passé un bon weekend ?"Did you have a nice weekend?"
— Oui, merci, répond-elle. Mais..."Yes, thanks," she responds. "But—"
— Attends, je dois te dire quelque chose d'important »."Wait, I have to tell you something important."

Depending on your native language and the peculiarities of its punctuation, there may be other differences between your native punctuation and French. Make sure to pay attention to such differences to be able to write in French correctly.

French Vocabulary Books

Learn French - Quick / Easy / Efficient

Learn French - Quick / Easy / Efficient

This vocabulary book is a curated French word frequency list with 2000 of the most common French words and phrases. Following the Pareto principle (80/20 rule), this book is built to streamline the learning process by concentrating on the core words and sentence structures. The result is a unique book ideal for driven learners and language hackers.

French Vocabulary Book

This French vocabulary book contains more than 3000 words and phrases and is organized by topic to make it easier for you to pick what to learn first. It is well suited for learners of all levels who are looking for an extensive resource to improve their vocabulary or are interested in learning vocabularies in one particular area of interest.

French Flashcards


French Flashcards Online

On our partner platform Flashcardo you can find French flashcards to practice online for free ordered by topics and frequency of use, similar to our two vocabulary books above.

Printable French Flashcards

With this downloadable product you get all French flashcards available on in various formats for you to use. In detail you get 1 EPUB ebook, 2 PDF vocabulary lists and 8 printable flashcard PDFs.

Free Learning Resources