Learn Chinese Punctuation Marks
标(biāo) 点(diǎn) 符(fú) 号(hào)
Chinese punctuation marks are used to organize and clarify written Chinese. Chinese punctuation marks are similar in function to English punctuation marks, but sometimes differ in form.
All Chinese characters are written to a uniform size, and this size also extends to punctuation marks, so Chinese punctuation marks usually take up more space than their English counterparts.
Chinese characters can be written either vertically or horizontally, so the Chinese punctuation marks change position depending on the direction of the text. For example, parentheses and quotation marks are rotated 90 degrees when written vertically, and the full stop mark is placed below and to the right of the last character when written vertically.
Common Chinese Punctuation Marks
Here are the most commonly used Chinese punctuation marks:
The Chinese full stop is a small circle that takes the space of one Chinese character. The Mandarin name of the full stop is 句號/句号 (jù hào). It is used at the end of simple or complex sentence, as in these examples:
Qǐng nǐ bāng wǒ mǎi yī fèn bàozhǐ.
Please help me buy a newspaper.
Jīngyú shì shòu lèi, búshì yú lèi; biānfú shì shòu lèi, búshì niǎo lèi.
Whales are mammals, not fish; bats are mammals, not birds.
The Mandarin name of the Chinese comma is 逗號/逗号 (dòu hào). It is the same as the English comma, except it takes the space of one full character and is positioned in the middle of the line. It is used to separate clauses within a sentence, and to indicate pauses. Here are some examples:
Rúguǒ táifēng bù lái, wǒmen jiù chū guó lǚxíng.
If the typhoon does not come, we will take a trip abroad.
Xiànzài de diànnǎo, zhēnshì wú suǒ bù néng.
Modern computers, they are truly essential.
The enumeration comma is used to separate list items. It is a short dash going from top left to bottom right. The Mandarin name of the enumeration comma is 頓號/顿号 (dùn hào). The difference between the enumeration comma and the regular comma can be seen in the following example:
Xǐ, nù, āi, lè, ài, è, yù, jiàozuò qī qíng.
Happiness, anger, sadness, joy, love, hate, and desire are known as the seven passions.
Colon, Semicolon, Question Mark & Exclamation Mark
These four Chinese punctuation marks are the same as their English counterparts and have the same usage as in English. Their names are as follows:
Colon冒號/冒号 (mào hào) – ：
Semicolon – 分號/分号 (fēnhào) – ；
Question Mark – 問號/问号 (wènhào) – ？
Exclamation Mark – 驚嘆號/惊叹号 (jīng tàn hào) – ！
Quotation marks are called 引號/引号 (yǐn hào) in Mandarin Chinese. There are both single and double quote marks, with the double quotes used within the single quotes:
Western-style quotation marks are used in simplified Chinese, but traditional Chinese uses the symbols as shown above. They are used for quoted speech, emphasis and sometimes for proper nouns and titles.
Lǎoshī shuō: “Nǐmen yào jìzhu Guófù shuō de ‘qīngnián yào lì zhì zuò dàshì, bùyào zuò dà guān’ zhè jù huà.”
The teacher said: “You must remember the words of Sun Yat-sen – ‘Youth should be committed to do big things, not to make big government.’”