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Punctuation in German

When is punctuation used in German and where would it go, be it a question mark, exclamation mark, periods, quotation marks, etc. Thank you for any replies

May 23, 2017



Question marks, exclamation marks, periods and quotation marks are pretty much used in the same way as in English (take this as a rule of thumb - I'm sure there are some exceptions). Commas are used quite differently but I wouldn't worry about this too much unless you are already proficient in German. The use of commas in German is not simple and I cannot recap it in one forum post, but if you're interested you can always google "Kommaregeln".


Thank you so much, I see how confusing it is, Thank you to Everyone.

Bis Später


Dieser Link scheint sehr interessant mit einfachen Beispielen zu sein. Es ist ein sehr umfangreiches Thema.


This link seems to be very interesting with simple examples. It is a very extensive topic.


One of the funny sites, where they collect some sentence expamles to see, how a different use of the comma can change the meaning of a sentence dramatically:


The first example from this site:

  • "Komm, wir essen Opa!" (Let´s eat grandpa!) :-D
  • "Komm, wir essen, Opa!" (Grandpa, let´s eat!) :-)

But I think it´s nearly the same as in English, isn´t it?

As poa-alpina wrote: You shouldn´t care about it, till you are already proficient in German. This topic is very complicated and not understanded by most German natives themselfes (me included). :-)


For the most part, it's the same as in English, with very minor differences. Quotation marks sometimes look different (I've seen German use »these quotes,« as well as „these quotes,” and as I understand it, even «these quotes» in Swiss German,) but they function the same. The comma before a quote is replaced by a colon (He said, "Hello." becomes Er sagte: „Hallo.") In numbers, . and , are reversed (1.000.000,00). Apostrophes are used to shorten words like in English ('s is es, 'n is ein), although they are not usually used to show possession. You may occasionally see them used that way, but frankly, it is inspired by English ortography and is technically incorrect in German. (My father's hat becomes Mein Vaters Hut.)

Those are fairly easy to get used to and, while different, probably make sense to English speakers. The only punctuation mark that gets used in a way that may seem difficult for us to grasp is the comma. Here's a page that explains when to use commas in German: http://blogs.transparent.com/german/the-most-important-comma-rules-in-german/

Even most of that should come naturally to English speakers (assuming your English grammar is as good as you want your German grammar to be! ;P Note that German doesn't use the Oxford comma, at least according to that article. I don't know if it's actually a big controversy for them like it is for English.) The only things that I think are likely to catch you off-guard are certain subordinate clauses that we hardly even think of as subordinate clauses in English, like:

I believe that everyone is good. -> Ich glaube, dass alle gut sind.


I live to tell my stories. -> Ich lebe, um meine Geschichten zu erzählen.


The bus I ride to work was full. -> Der Bus, damit ich nach der Arbeit fahre, war voll.

(If that last one's not​ how you'd say that, lemme know. I'm not sure about the wording, but I am sure that it was a good example of the kind of subordinate clause I wanted! Lol)


The last sentence would be Der Bus, mit dem ich in die Arbeit fahre, war voll. But your point came across anyway, :-)


Dang, that was my second guess, hahahah. Danke schön!


To be totally correct, you should say

  • "Der Bus, mit dem ich zur Arbeit fahre, war voll."

But in some regions of Germany they may also say "in die Arbeit" and others "auf Arbeit".

This is also difficult and a common language mistake done even by Germans.

In the school I've learned, that we should use "zu" for persons and "nach" for places ("zu einer Person und nach einem Ort"), but in colloquial speech it is not so simple

You drive/go

  • "nach Hause"
  • "nach Bremen/Hamburg/Berlin..."
  • "nach Italien/Spanien/Amerika..."
  • "Ich fliege in die Türkei/Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika..."
  • "zu Michael/Sabine/Holger..."
  • "zur Arbeit"
  • "ins Kino"
  • "ins Amt"
  • "zur Behörde"
  • ...(there are more)

I am not sure, if someone tried to find rules for all that. In the region I actually live, they say "ich gehe nach Karstadt (a German department store)" and "Ich gehe nach Michael.", although it is wrong. According to the rules they should rather say "Ich gehe zu Karstadt/Hertie... (although these are places) and "Ich gehe zu Michael/Sabine..." etc.

I found a pretty nice explanation on the following website


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