15 julio, 2024

Single quotes: definition, uses, how to use them and examples

We explain what single quotes are, their applications and give examples

What are single quotes?

The single quotes They are an orthographic sign similar to double quotes, with the particularity that instead of having two tildes, it has only one. They are placed above the line of writing, before and after the words or phrases to be highlighted.

Single quotes, in Spanish, are used to designate a second or third level of citations: «He did not disregard his advice: ‘Beware of hypocritical people’, and that is why he has succeeded.» As you can see, they are used to indicate a quote within a quote.

The ways of using it vary from one language to another. In Spanish, angular, Latin or Spanish quotation marks (« ») are widely used. In fact, the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) recommends that they be used in printed texts; these quotation marks are placed centered.

Double and single quotes, therefore, would be of the second and third level, that is, when there is more than one quote within another.


«The sun was sinking quickly on the horizon. Damn it, she thought to herself, I can’t quite remember the address. I know he told me: ‘follow the edge of the river and you won’t get lost’, but it’s getting dark and I haven’t found the path ”».

Uses of single quotes

As we have said, the uses vary from one language to another: in English, for example, double quotes are used much more (in countries like the United States and Canada), and in the United Kingdom single quotes are used to quote quotes.

However, in Spanish there are at least three types: angular, Latin or Spanish (« »), double or English (“ ”) and simple (‘ ‘).

There are three main uses of single quotes in our language: to indicate a quote within a quote, to indicate a word in another language, with a different or special meaning, or to indicate the meaning of words or expressions. Also, additionally, they are used in newspaper headlines, to replace the italics.

Quote within a quote

Despite the fact that in the most current keyboards and devices the Spanish or angular quotation marks are difficult to locate, the standard recommends that they be used in printed books, in preference to the English or double quotation marks.

Precisely because of this technical difficulty, double quotes are increasingly used, so the use of single quotes has come to indicate a second level of citations.


“Antonio Machado wrote several decades ago: ‘Traveller, there is no path but trails in the sea.’ With that, the poet wanted to show us that destiny does not exist and that each one walks his own unwritten path.

Words in another language, special or with different meaning

When we are using quotation marks (whether angular or double), the single ones help us to point out words with a different meaning or that we consider should be highlighted, or to indicate irony.


«The boys fluttered like moths around the latest video game, if we can consider beings weighing more than 20 kilos ‘moths’.»
“He repeated ‘fojaina’ for the umpteenth time, and his mother patiently corrected him: ‘jofaina’”.

To indicate the meaning of a word

When in a paragraph we want to indicate the meaning of a particular word, single quotes are used.


Discrimination means ‘prejudicial and different treatment given to someone for reasons of race, religion, etc.’.

in newspaper headlines

When italics are not used in headlines in graphic media, single quotes are used.


In Barcelona, ​​the ‘squatters’ also have their office.

Single quotes open and close just like angle or double quotes, and are placed immediately before and after the words, with no spaces between the words and the quotes, but leaving a space between the words that precede them, except when to the words. closing quotes are followed by a period, comma, colon, semicolon, leaving no space:

«That’s what he told me,» he acknowledged.
“She asked him when and he answered: ‘tomorrow’”;

Examples of how to use single quotes

«He wanted to eat more ‘bean soup,’ but it was over.»
Loving means ‘related to love’.
«The girl thought: ‘I must get up immediately if I don’t want to miss my flight,’ but she turned over and went back to sleep.»
“He told me: ‘When it’s 5 in the morning you’ll see the first rays of the sun.’ I have never been able to see them.»
«In Ethics for AmadorFernando Savater wrote: ‘Treating people humanely consists in trying to put yourself in their place’”.
«Party? Well, what a ‘party’ you spent, with just one guest, me”.
‘Beekeeping’ is the term used for the activity of raising bees in order to obtain and consume the products they make and collect: honey, wax, propolis.
«The song says: ‘Guadalajara is a plain, Mexico is a lagoon,’ and I didn’t understand it until I visited Mexico City.»
Taliban means ‘student of and belonging to or relating to the fundamentalist Muslim movement that emerged from a Pakistani Koranic school and developed mainly in Afghanistan’.
“In his dream, the gorgons told him: ‘get ready, we’re coming for you.’ He woke up with a start.
He called himself ‘the ice cream papirruqui’.
The Pemón word ‘tuná’ means ‘water’ in Spanish.
The municipality of Ahuacatlán, in the state of Nayarit, in Mexico, means «place of avocados» in Nahuatl.
«She sighed with sorrow and remembered the teacher’s words: ‘If you don’t pass this exam, you won’t be able to graduate this year.’
“I told him: ‘Do you know how many times I had to count?’, and he answered me: ‘what do I care?’ I swear I almost had a fit of rage.»
‘Cuatro’ is a numeral adjective, but ‘cuatro’ is also a Venezuelan musical instrument used to play the ‘joropo’, a musical genre and dance typical of the Venezuelan plains.
“How many times did the Angel tell me: / ‘soul, look out the window now, / you will see with how much love to call persistently’! / And how many, sovereign beauty, / ‘tomorrow we will open it for you’, he replied, / for the same answer tomorrow! ” (Lope de Vega).
Spring means ‘that is related to spring’.
«Hello! Have you already had the ‘belly’? What name have you given him?»
In Mexico, a ‘milpa’ is an agricultural ecosystem where farmers alternately sow corn, squash, beans and sometimes chili, creating a crop dynamic. The ‘milpa’ is a legacy of ancient Mesoamerican agricultural practices.


Pan-Hispanic Dictionary of Doubts (2005). Quotation marks. Taken from rae.es.
The Oxford Guide to Style (2007). Quotation Marks. Taken from eng-lang.co.uk.
Quotation marks within quotation marks: the use of this spelling mark (2021). Taken from lavanguardia.com.
The Correct Use of Quotation Marks in Academic Writing (2021). Taken from enago.com.
Single quotes (2021). Taken from wikilengua.org.

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