Inverted question and exclamation marks

  (Redirected from ¿)

Inverted question mark, ¿, and inverted exclamation mark, ¡, are punctuation marks used to begin interrogative and exclamatory sentences (or clauses), respectively, in written Spanish (both in Spain and Latin America) and sometimes also in languages which have cultural ties with the Spanish, such as the Galician, Asturian and Waray languages.[1] They are useful in Spanish since the syntax of the language means that questions and exclamations can have the same wording as regular statements.[2]

¿ ¡
Inverted question mark
Inverted exclamation mark
The iconic phrase ¿Por qué no te callas? ("Why don't you shut up?"), said by Spanish King Emeritus Juan Carlos I to former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez (2007).

They can also be combined in several ways to express the combination of a question and surprise or disbelief. The initial marks are normally mirrored at the end of the sentence or clause by the 'ordinary' question mark, ?, or exclamation mark, !, used in most other languages. Unlike the ending marks, which are printed along the baseline of a sentence, the inverted marks (¿ and ¡) descend below the line.

Inverted marks were originally recommended by the Real Academia Española (Royal Spanish Academy) in 1754, and adopted gradually over the next century.[citation needed]

On computers, inverted marks are supported by various standards, including ISO-8859-1, Unicode, and HTML. They can be entered directly on keyboards designed for Spanish-speaking countries, or via alternative methods on other keyboards.


The inverted question mark, ¿, is a punctuation mark written before the first letter of an interrogative sentence or clause to indicate that a question follows. It is a rotated form of the standard symbol "?" recognized by speakers of other languages written with the Latin alphabet. Inverted punctuation is especially critical in Spanish since the syntax of the language means that both statements and questions or exclamations could have the same wording.[2]

In most languages, a single question mark is used, and only at the end of an interrogative sentence: "How old are you?" This was once true of the Spanish language. Spanish does retain this ending question mark as well as the initial inverted question mark.


Punctuation marks in the Spanish language, showing their positions relative to the baseline.

The inverted question mark was adopted long[specify] after the Real Academia's decision, published in the second edition of the Ortografía de la lengua castellana (Orthography of the Castilian language) in 1754[3] recommending it as the symbol indicating the beginning of a question in written Spanish—e.g. "¿Cuántos años tienes?" ("How old are you?"). The Real Academia also ordered the same inverted-symbol system for statements of exclamation, using the symbols "¡" and "!". This helps to recognize questions and exclamations in long sentences. "Do you like summer?" and "You like summer." are translated respectively as "¿Te gusta el verano?" and "Te gusta el verano." (There is not always a difference between the wording of a yes–no question and the corresponding statement in Spanish.) These new rules were slowly adopted; there are 19th-century books in which the writer uses neither "¡" nor "¿".

In sentences that are both declarative and interrogative, the clause that asks a question is isolated with the starting-symbol inverted question mark, for example: "Si no puedes ir con ellos, ¿quieres ir con nosotros?" ("If you cannot go with them, would you like to go with us?"), not "¿Si no puedes ir con ellos, quieres ir con nosotros?"

Some writers omit the inverted question mark in the case of a short unambiguous question such as: "Quién viene?" ("Who comes?"). This is the criterion in Galician[4] and Catalan.[5] Certain Catalan-language authorities, such as Joan Solà i Cortassa, insist that both the opening and closing question marks be used for clarity.[citation needed]

Some Spanish-language writers, among them Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda (1904–1973), refuse to use the inverted question mark.[6] It is common in Internet chat rooms and instant messaging now to use only the single "?" as an ending symbol for a question, since it saves typing time. Multiple closing symbols are used for emphasis: "Por qué dices eso??", instead of the standard "¿Por qué dices eso?" ("Why do you say that?"). Some may also use the ending symbol for both beginning and ending, giving "?Por qué dices eso?" Given the informal setting, this might be unimportant; however, teachers see this as a problem, fearing and claiming that contemporary young students are inappropriately and incorrectly extending the practice to academic homework and essays. (See Internet linguistics § Educational perspective)


In 1668, John Wilkins proposed using the inverted exclamation mark "¡" as a symbol at the end of a sentence to denote irony. He was one of many, including Desiderius Erasmus, who felt there was a need for such a punctuation mark, but Wilkins' proposal, as was true of the other attempts, failed to take hold.[7][8]


It is acceptable in Spanish to begin a sentence with an opening inverted exclamation mark ("¡") and end it with a question mark ("?"), or vice versa, for statements that are questions but also have a clear sense of exclamation or surprise such as: ¡Y tú quién te crees? ("And who do you think you are?!"). Normally, four signs are used, always with one type in the outer side and the other in the inner side (nested) (¿¡Y tú quién te crees!?, ¡¿Y tú quién te crees?![9])

Unicode 5.1 also includes U+2E18 INVERTED INTERROBANG, which is an inverted version of the interrobang (also known as a "gnaborretni"[note 1] (/ŋˌnɑːbɔːrˈɛ, a nonstandard punctuation mark used to denote both excitement and a question in just one glyph.

Computer usageEdit


¡ and ¿ are both located within the Unicode Common block, and are both inherited from ISO-8859-1, as U+00A1 ¡ INVERTED EXCLAMATION MARK (HTML ¡ · ¡) and U+00BF ¿ INVERTED QUESTION MARK (HTML ¿ · ¿), respectively.

Input methodsEdit

The ¡ character is accessible using AltGr+1 on a modern US-International keyboard. It is also available using a standard US keyboard by switching to the US-International keyboard layout.

Microsoft WindowsEdit

¿ and ¡ are available in all keyboard layouts for Spanish-speaking countries.

Users of US English keyboards under Microsoft Windows can obtain the inverted question mark ¿ using the Alt code method by holding down the Alt key and pressing 0191 or 168 on the number pad; and the inverted exclamation mark ¡ with 0161 or 173. In Microsoft Word, the inverted question and exclamation marks can be typed by holding down the Ctrl, Alt, and shift keys while typing a normal question or exclamation mark, or by typing either mark at the start of the sentence whilst in the Spanish language mode. Windows users with a US keyboard layout are able to switch to the US-International layout. Among other changes, this converts the Alt key to the right of the space bar into the Alt Gr (graphics) key. (The left Alt key remains unchanged.) When right Alt key is held down and other keys are pressed, the combination produces other characters not found on the standard US keyboard. For instance, the keystroke right Alt+1 produces an inverted exclamation mark, while right Alt+/ yields the inverted question marks.

Keyboards sold in Europe have an AltGr key as standard, and it performs as described above if 'extended keyboard' is chosen in system settings.

GNU/Linux/Chrome OSEdit

On a US International keyboard (or standard keyboard with 'International' settings), the ¿ and ¡ symbols can be made by pressing right Alt+1 and right Alt+/, respectively. Modern versions of the Operating Systems concerned also accept Unicode code point entries, which can be entered with any keyboard setting: press Ctrl+⇧ Shift+u, then A1space for ¡ or BFspace for ¿. (A1 and BF are the hexadecimal Unicode code points for the given characters).

Users with keyboards that have the AltGr key as standard can do likewise: the corresponding controls are AltGr+1 and AltGr+/. again an 'extended keyboard' setting may be required.

On the X Window system (which the vast majority of GNU/Linux desktop systems with graphical interface use), they can be entered using the standard Compose key mechanism as Compose+!+! and Compose+?+?, respectively.


On the macOS platform (or when using the "US International"/us-intl keyboard layout on Windows and Linux), ¿ and ¡ can be entered by pressing ⇧ Shift+Alt/⌥ Option+/ and Alt/⌥ Option+1 respectively. With a compose key, for example, <LEFT SHIFT> + <RIGHT CTRL>, they can be entered by pressing the compose key and ! or ? twice.

For AZERTY keyboards, the shortcuts are fn+alt+! (number 8) and fn+alt+? (comma).

For QWERTZ keyboards, a shortcut is alt+i.


In LaTeX documents, ¿ is written as ?` (question mark, grave accent) or \textquestiondown, and ¡ as !` (exclamation point, grave) or \textexclamdown. (This may require including \usepackage[utf8]{inputenc}&nbsp; at the top of the document.) XeLaTeX and LuaLaTeX have full Unicode support, and literal ¿ and ¡ characters may be input.


In smartphones the methods vary. Some examples: In Android GBoard and on Apple Phone models, pressing longer the ? key will show ¿. In ComboKey keyboard application, character ¿ already appears at the same position as ? if you are beginning a sentence with a capital letter while in the Spanish layout.

Use in filenamesEdit

In Windows, an inverted question mark is valid in a file or directory name, whereas the normal question mark is a reserved character which cannot be so used.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Interrobang spelled backwards.


  1. ^ De Veyra, Vicente I. (1982). "Ortograpiya han Binisaya". Kandabao: Essays on Waray language, literature, and culture.
  2. ^ a b Rosetta Stone Inc. (September 5, 2019). "What's Up With The Upside Down Question Mark?". Retrieved 31 May 2020.
  3. ^ "Ediciones de la Ortografía Académica" [Editions of the Academic Orthography] (PDF). Real Academia Española.
  4. ^ "7. Os signos de interrogación e de admiración" (PDF). Normas ortográficas e morfolóxicas do idioma galego [Orthographic rules and morphology of the Galician language] (in Galician) (23ª ed.). Real Academia Galega. p. 38. ISBN 978-84-87987-78-6. Retrieved 9 July 2019. Para facilitar a lectura e evitar ambigüidades pode-rase indicar o inicio destas entoacións cos signos ¿ e ¡, respectivamente.
  5. ^ Institut d'Estudis Catalans (1996), "Els signes d'interrogació i d'admiració (Acord de l'11 de juny de 1993)", Documents de la Secció Filològica, III, pp. 92–94, archived from the original on 2011-09-06
  6. ^ Pablo Neruda, "Antología Fundamental". Archived from the original on 2012-04-25. (556 KB), (June 2008). ISBN 978-956-16-0169-7. p. 7 (in Spanish)
  7. ^ Houston, Keith (24 September 2013). Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, and Other Typographical Marks. W. W. Norton. p. 214. ISBN 978-0-393-24154-9.
  8. ^ Popova, Maria. "Ironic Serif: A Brief History of Typographic Snark and the Failed Crusade for an Irony Mark". Brain Pickings. Retrieved 1 Sep 2014.
  9. ^ RAE's [1] (in Spanish)