Knowledge of Language

Speech marks

Speech marks – which are also known as inverted commas – simply separate the words someone in a sentence actually says from the rest of the sentence. These words are called direct speech.

"I’ll be back home soon," Jim shouted to his mum.

There are some simple rules to follow:

  • Put every word that was said inside speech marks.
  • Always use a capital letter for the first word of each sentence inside the speech marks:

"I’m going out now. Is that OK?" he asked.

Mum said quietly, "Please sit down."

  • Separate the direct speech from the rest of the sentence, usually using a comma:

Mum said quietly, "Please sit down."

"Please sit down," Mum said quietly.


Sometimes we can break the direct speech up by inserting information about who is speaking. This is the only time when you do not use a capital letter for the first word inside the speech marks. This is because the part that starts ‘you had better’ is still part of the same sentence that started before the interruption of ‘she said’.

"If you think you can speak to me like that," she said, "you had better think again!"

In the following example, what she says is in two separate sentences and so we need a comma and a full stop as well as a capital letter when she starts to speak again.

"Don't speak to me like that," she said. "Go up to your room."