inverted comma

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From the appearance of an apostrophe as a raised or "inverted" comma.


inverted comma (plural inverted commas)

  1. (Britain) A type of quotation mark, denoted by (an "open inverted comma") or (a "close inverted comma"). Often used instead of "inverted commas", which also means a "double style" inverted comma, denoted by ("open inverted commas") or ("close inverted commas"), in the United Kingdom.
    • 1988, Andrew Radford, chapter 6, in Transformational grammar: a first course, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, page 299:
      The following paradigm will serve to illustrate what we mean by this term:
      (37) (a)      ‘Will I get a degree?ʼ John wondered
      (37) (b)      John wondered whether he would get a degree
      (37) (c)      John wondered would he get a degree
      The italicised sequence in (37) (a) is said to be an instance of direct speech: John's exact words are recorded verbatim, and are bounded in the spelling by a question mark and inverted commas; points to note here include the use of the present tense Auxiliary will, the inversion of the Auxiliary, and the use of the first person pronoun I to represent the speaker.

Usage notes[edit]

  • A "single style" inverted comma is typically used in the UK instead of the "double style" "inverted commas":
    • She said, ‘Yes, that would be lovely.’ is often used instead of She said, “Yes, that would be lovely.”
  • The plural is ambiguous, since "inverted commas" may refer either to two or more of inverted comma, or to a "double style" inverted comma, as in She said, “Yes, that would be fine.” However, the latter meaning is usually assumed.
  • A "single quote", or ', similar to an inverted comma, is sometimes used in North America, especially when inside a passage that is already in the more usual "double quotes" quotation marks:
    • She said, "Yes, that would be 'fabulous', I'll see you then."