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French vs English punctuation

Proper punctuation is very important in the writing of any language but it does not seem that they differences are taught on Duolingo (understandably) so here are some of the more important differences between French and English punctuation rules.


The decimal point is replaced by a comma
English: 2.3
French: 2,3

Large numbers are written with full stops or gaps where a comma would usually be in English English: 20,000
French: 20.000 or 20 000


Speech marks "" are not used in French, instead a quote is put in between these « »
English: "hon hon oui oui baguette"
French: « hon hon oui oui baguette »

They are also put around all of the speech where as in English they stop and start a new "" if another person starts talking.


Most French punctuation marks require a space both before and after it where as in English it is not used before the mark
English: HELP!
French: HELP !


'I' is always capitalised in English regardless of where it is in sentence but this is not the case in French, it is only capitalised if at the beginning of a sentence.
English: You know that I know
French: Tu sais que je sais

There are quite a few things that are not capitalised in French but are in English e.g months and days of the year, religions, languages and countries.
English: It is in January
French: C'est en janiver

Titles of books or films are capitalised differently. In English every word (except small linking words like 'and' or 'of' ) is capitalised whereas in French only the first word is capitalised, unless it is an article then the nouns attached is also capitalised.
English: The Home of Fries (first thing that came into my head, i am quite hungry)
French: The Home of fries

Punctuation vocabulary

and finally the French words for some punctuation marks in case someone tries to correct your French punctuation in French:
. un point
, une virgule
: un deux-points
; un point-virgule
- un trait d'union
« » les guillemets
( rest are fairly close to English so not included )

Obviously this is not all of them but these are the ones that seemed most likely to be encountered or most important to understand if coming across them. Please add in the comments if you know anymore :)

August 19, 2017



Thanks for your tips! Only an observation: in Capitalisation you write: "There are quite a few things that are not capitalised in French but are in English e.g (...) and countries".

As far I know, you must capitalize countries, as in English or Spanish. «Vive la France !»


Oh yeah my bad you are entirely right, I meant to put the countries that people live in but I don't know the word now. You know like when you say they are English.


Ah! Demonym! You right! « Elle est française ».


Here, 'française' is an adjective. When it is a noun, it is capitalised. 'C'est une Française.'

The language is not capitalised, though. 'Le français est la langue parlée par les Français.'


Useful info. Thanks!


Really good tips! And knowing that it is a French forum, I would add that the same differences you can see between English and Spanish, except for the "Most French punctuation marks require a space both before and after it where as in English it is not used before the mark".


Thanks, Qiunnn, for noting these differences with punctuation! This discussion post definitely deserves a "click" on the follow option. ;D


'Most French punctuation marks require a space both before and after it'

Only the ones made of two signs, that is to say: colon, semicolon, exclamation mark and question mark. And the space before is a non-breaking space. The guillemets are also made of two signs, and the rule applies to them, but the non-breaking space will be after the opening guillemet and before the closing guillemet, of course.

To make the non-breaking space visible, I will use the underscore in this example which includes most of the existing punctuation marks:

Il hésita_; il réfléchit... Enfin (s'étant décidé), il dit_: «_Bonjour_! Tu vas bien_? Moi, ça va._»


Correction: « hon hon oui oui baguette ». You need spaces both after the opening quotation mark and before the closing quotation mark.


Thank you , i will edit that :)


Good information! However, this was covered in the course, in the tip and notes part.


Parecen ustedes mucho más adelantados que yo;empecé hace poquito, creo que me va a llevar tiempo aprender este idioma. Veo que ,al menos en el foro, no hay gente de Argentina estudiando y opinando. Me falta continuidad en mis clases por falta de tiempo. En fin trataré de seguir como pueda.Saludos desde Argentina


great to know that.. Thanks ! :D


Non, c'est en janvier.


What happens if you don't write the space before those two-part punctuation marks in French? Also first reply here.

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