How to use German quotation marks

How to use German quotation marks

by Lea Hauke

Updated October 6, 2023

The way quotation marks are used — and even how they look — can vary from language to language. German quotation marks, like those in many other languages,  help to highlight or set apart certain thoughts and words. But the way these quotation marks appear on the page may surprise you. 

There are some subtle but important distinctions between quotation marks in German and quotation marks in English. While a good German grammar checker can save you from the most common mistakes, it pays to understand when and how to use quotation marks in German.

So, let’s dive into the world of quotes and examine what German quotation marks look like, how to use them and how to type them into your keyboard. It’s easier than you think!

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What do German quotation marks look like?

As in many other languages, quotation marks in German signify direct speech and thoughts — especially those that do not belong to the writer or speaker. 

The basics of quotation are  especially important if you’re writing an academic or research paper, as you should always properly cite your sources and avoid plagiarizing other people’s ideas. But even if you aren’t planning to write a dissertation on German philosophy any time soon, you should strive to use the correct typographical quotation marks when writing in German. 

As is often the case when comparing English and German, quotation marks differ between the languages. 

German quotation marks have a somewhat unique look. The marks that open a quote sit at the bottom and point to the left; the closing marks sit at the upper end of the last word and point to the right.

You can use this mnemonic trick to remember: 

99 + 66 = German quotation marks

In other words, the opening quotation marks are at the bottom of the line and look like two subscript nines. The closing quotation marks are at the top and look like two superscript sixes. 

So, if you’re marking a quote in a German text, it would look like this: „So werden Anführungszeichen benutzt.“

When do you use quotation marks in German?

When writing texts in German, you should make sure to use German quotation marks according to the typographical conventions. 

There are two kinds of quotation marks in German. In most cases, you should use Anführungszeichen (quotation marks). The other form is called einfache/halbe Anführungszeichen, which loosely translates to “single/half quotation marks.”

Anführungszeichen are used to indicate:

  • verbatim speech
  • direct quotations
  • titles of works

Einfache/halbe Anführungszeichen are less common. You use them for:

  • Quotations in citations
  • A non-scientific choice of words
  • To emphasize terms (boldface is uncommon)

Basically, we only use single quotation marks to mark a particular word choice or when we would otherwise have a double bracket of normal quotation marks.

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Examples of quotation marks in German

Now that you know the two different types of German quotation marks and when to use them, let’s have a look at some examples. 

  • Direct quotes: „Sein oder nicht sein, das ist hier die Frage“ ist ein bekanntes Zitat von Shakespeare. (“To be or not to be, that is the question” is a famous quote by Shakespeare.)
  • Verbatim speech: Gestern sagte mein Vater zu mir: „Das Wetter soll wieder besser werden.“ (Yesterday, my father told me, “The weather is going to get better.”)
  • Titles of works: Dieses Zitat ist aus dem Film „Vom Winde verweht“.  (This is a quote from the film Gone with the Wind.)
  • Quote in a quote: Er bestätigte: Das Zitat stammt aus dem Film ‚Titanic’” (He confirmed: “The quote is from the film Titanic.”)
  • Highlighting non-scientific terms: Laut seinen Freunden war er am Abend ‚völlig fertig‘. (According to his friends, he was dead beat by the end of the evening. 
  • Emphasizing special terms: ‚Work-Life-Balance‘ ist ein neuer Begriff, der heutzutage häufig verwendet wird. (“Work-life-balance” is a new term that is frequently used today.) 

How to type German quotation marks on a keyboard

In the following table, you will find the different combinations for typing German quotation marks on your keyboard: 

Type of quotation markmacOsWindows
Opening quotation marksShift + 2
Closing quotation marks
Opening single/half quotation marksShift + ‘/#
Closing single/half quotation marks

German quotation marks: Unique look and usage

Using the correct typographic conventions is important for German students of every level, but especially for advanced German learners who are preparing to enroll and study at a German university

To remember how quotation marks look, it can help to keep the “99 + 66 rule” in mind. The opening quotation marks sit on the bottom left line and lean to the left, while the closing marks sit at the upper right of the last word of the quote. While you will rarely come across einfache or halbe Anführungszeichen, double quotation marks are used frequently in German. 

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Lea Hauke

Lea is a writer and translator for English and German and lives in Austria. Her love for literature is only met by her enthusiasm for music. During her studies in Berlin, she started writing for different music magazines and was the singer and drummer of a punk band. When she completed her Masters in English Literature, she moved to Tyrol, where she started her own business. Since then she has made it her mission to help others to find the right words for their ideas and projects. You can find more information about her on her website and on LinkedIn.

Lea Hauke
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