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Inverted Commas

What are inverted commas?

Inverted commas are punctuation marks which signal to the reader where spoken words begin and end within a sentence. They are also used to demonstrate where a quotation is inserted into a text. They are also known as speech marks, or quotation marks.

You may see single ('   ') or double ("   ") inverted commas depending on what you are reading. These may be used together to signal a quote within a piece of speech.

Inverted commas

When and how to use inverted commas

Inverted commas have a number of purposes. They can be used to mark the beginning and end of direct speech, quote evidence from a text or to add a quotation.

To mark the beginning and end of direct speech

Here, the first pair of inverted commas should go before the first spoken word and the second pair should go after the punctuation which follows the last spoken word.

"Help me! The walls are closing in," cried Alfie.

To quote evidence from a text

Here, inverted commas are used to signal which word or words have been extracted from a text. Children might use this to justify their inferences about a character's thoughts, feelings or motivations.

The author describes the character's 'greedy eyes' which suggests that he is hungry for power.

To add a quotation into a text

Sometimes, a quotation is used to lead into a commmentary or it is embedded within a text. Remember here to attribute the author.

“The future depends on what we do in the present.” (Mahatma Gandhi)

It becomes slightly more complicated when dealing with a quote inside a quote. Here, the two types of inverted commas are used to offer the reader clarity. Children might use this in their writing to introduce sarcasm or irony.

If double inverted commas are used to signal the speech, then single inverted commas should signal the embedded quotation.

"Oh, you think you look 'elegant' do you?" Hatty cackled.

If single inverted commas are used to signal the speech, then double inverted commas should signal the embedded quotation.

'Oh, you think you look "elegant" do you?' Hatty cackled.

 


How to punctuate direct speech

It is important to remember the rules of direct speech that accompany the use of inverted commas.

To punctuate direct speech, follow these simple rules:

  1. Start a new line for each new speaker. This helps the reader to keep track of who is speaking.

  2. Add a pair of inverted commas around the words spoken by the character. The first pair of inverted commas should go before the first spoken word and the second pair should go after the punctuation which follows the last spoken word.

  3. Begin the spoken words with a capital letter.

  4. Add closing punctuation to follow the last spoken word. This could be a comma, full stop, exclamation mark, question mark or even an ellipsis if the character's thoughts trail off.

  5. Use a comma to separate the direct speech and reporting clause.

Our KS2 English Journey scheme, based on the beautifully illustrated book by Aaron Becker, includes detailed instructions for how to use inverted commas and offer children opportuntities to apply these in their writing.

If your class are ready to develop dialogue which advances the action and conveys character, then take a look at our Year 5 One Thousand and One Arabian Nights scheme of work where children can create conversations between characters for their very own adventure story.

inverted commas ks2 direct speech

Fun activities to teach children to use inverted commas

Why not try these engaging activities with your class to support their understanding of when and where to use inverted commas?

  • Use handwriting practise to ensure that children can form inverted commas consistently and in correct alignment within their writing.
  • Use macaroni pasta to add inverted commas into a speech sentence.
  • Watch videos without sound and ask children to create speech sentences or dialogue with inverted commas to mark the beginning an end of the spoken words.
  • Ask children to convert text message conversations into dialogue which uses inverted commas, direct speech punctuation and reporting clauses.
inverted commas speech marks
inverted commas speech marks

Use the macaroni to demonstrate where the inverted commas should be positioned within the speech sentence.

Address misconeptions by asking children to 'be the teacher' and correct inverted commas which have been incorrectly positioned.

Our FREE Text Message Conversations, featuring well-known characters from our English schemes of work, are a brilliant way to get children using inverted commas in their writing.

LESSON PACK Journey


LESSON PACK One Thousand and One Arabian Nights


FREE Direct Speech Punctuation Guide