The category of punctuation marks includes all the elements that, in reading and in writing, permit to reproduce the pauses and the intonations typical of the speaking.

Are punctuation marks:
•    il punto (full stop)
•    il punto e virgola (semicolon)
•    i due punti (colon)
•    la virgola (comma)
•    il punto interrogativo (question mark)
•    il punto esclamativo (exclamation mark)
•    i puntini di sospensione (ellipsis mark)
•    le virgolette e le lineette (quotation marks)
•    le parentesi tonde e quadre (round brackets and square brackets)
•    l’asterisco (asteriks)

•    Il punto    .

The full stop, punto, must be put at the end of a sentence, to show that it is concluded. In writing, if a new sentence follows the first one, the first word of this new phrase must be written with a capital letter. In reading, the full  stop corresponds at a long pause of the voice. To indicate a marked break, after the full stop can start a new paragraph.

For example: Greta è partita. Sentiremo molto la sua mancanza.
                  (Greta left. We’ll miss her a lot.)

•    Il punto e virgola    ;

The semicolon, virgola, indicates a medium pause between two sentences. These are separated, but not so much to request a full stop and not so little to demand a comma. In reading the semicolon corresponds to a medium pause of the voice. It’s used to separate sentences having a definite meaning, or to separate the elements of complex enumerations. After the semicolon isn’t necessary a capital letter.

For example:
Sotto la pioggia, nell’aria rabbuiata della sera, intravvediamo villaggi di casette moderne col tetto di lamiera; ogni tanto incrociamo camion sovraccarichi, bloccati da fango; ogni tanto schizziamo, con le nostre ruote, il fango addosso a presenze costernate, allineate lungo il fossato sotto grandi ombrelli neri. (Da Alberto Moravia, “Passeggiate africane”)

(Under the rain, in the dark evening air, we glimpse villages of modern houses, having sheet metal roofs; sometimes we meet overloaded trucks, blocked by mud; sometimes with our wheels we splash mud on dismayed presence, lined up along the dyke, under big, black umbrellas.)

•    I due punti    :

The colon, due punti, communicates a medium pause. It’s different from the semicolon, because:
- it can introduce a list;
For example: Al supermercato ho comprato tantissime cose: pane, pasta, verdure, frutta e carne. (I bought many things at the supermarket: bread, pasta, vegetables, fruits and meat.)
- it points that what follows is the consequence or the explanation of what told before.
For example: Non sei stato sincero: per questo non mi fido più di te. (You wasn’t sincere: I can’t trust you anymore.)
- it introduces a direct speech;
For example: Chiara disse: «Vengo anch’io, aspettatemi!» (Chiara said: «Wait, I’m coming with you!»).

•    La virgola   ,

The comma, virgola, indicates a short break and it’s used very often. It has many functions:
- it separates the elements of a list;
For example: Al mattino mi lavo, faccio colazione, mi vesto e vado al lavoro.
                  (In the morning I have a shower, I have breakfast, I get dressed and I go to
                   In quel giardino c’erano molti fiori: rose, margherite, tulipani e viole.
                   (There were many flowers in that garden: roses, daisies, tulips and violets.)
- it separates different sentences;
For example: Se continua a piovere, non potrò usare la bicicletta.
                  (If it continues to rain, I won’t use the bicycle.)
                   Sono stanco, ma devo lavorare ancora molte ore.
                   (I’m tired, but I have to work for many hours.)
- it isolates one or more words inside a sentence.
For example: Dante, grande poeta, visse nel medioevo.
                  (Dante, a great poet, lived in the Middle Ages.)
                   Toby, quel grande cane, è dolcissimo.
                  (Toby, that big dog, is so sweet.)
- it is always used after a vocative;
For example: Signora, saprebbe dirmi per favore che ore sono?
                  (Excuse me, Madame, could you tell me the time please?)
                   Ti prego, Luca, dimmi la verità!    
                   (Please, Luca, tell me the thruth!)
- it is always set before some conjunctions, such as ma, però, anzi.
For example: Voleva dirgli ancora qualcosa, ma rimase in silenzio.
                  (She would had told him something more, but she kept silence.)
                   Non sono arrabbiata, anzi sono molto felice per te!
                   (I’m not angry, on the contrary I’m very happy for you!)

•    Il punto interrogativo    ?

The question mark, punto interrogativo, is used after an interrogative sentence and it suggests which intonation must be used. It introduces a direct question and it is followed by a capital letter.
For example: “Posso venire anch’io?” “Sì, certo!”
                  (“Can I come with you?” “Yes, of course!”)

•    Il punto esclamativo   !

The exclamation mark, punto esclamativo, follows an exclamative sentence. After it, a capital letter must be used. It can suggests wonder, happyness, excitement, pain, anger, etc.
For example: Ti amo! (I love you!)
                  Che male! Non riesco nemmeno a stare in piedi! (What harm! I can’t stand up!)
                  Vattene! Non voglio vederti mai più! (Go away! I don’t want to see you again!)

•    I puntini di sospensione  …

Ellipsis mark, puntini di sospensione, are always three and indicates an interruption or expresses an hesitation. They leave the sentence incomplete, but it’s easy to understand what isn’t said.

For example: La porta si era aperta facendo rumore e… che spavento!
                  (The door opened with noise and…how scary!)
                   Devo essere a casa a mezzanotte, altrimenti i miei genitori…
                  (I must be home at midnight, or else my parents…)

•    Le virgolette «   »   “   ”   e le lineette  -  -

Quotation marks, virgolette and lineette, are used to open and close a direct speech or to introduce a quote. In particolar, the dashes are also used to delimit an aside.

For example: La mamma disse: «Che bello essere a casa!»
                  (Mum said: «How nice to be home! »
                   “Sei sicuro”, mi chiese Giorgio, “di aver fatto la scelta giusta?”
                   (“Are you sure”, Giorgio asked me, “ you made the right choice?”)
                   - Che noia! - disse - Quando andiamo via da qui? -
                   ( - What a bore! - she said - When are we going away from here? - )
                   L’altro giorno - non mi ricordo nemmeno quando - ho incontrato Roberta.
                   (The day before yesterday - I don’t even remember when - I met Roberta.)

•    Le parentesi tonde (   ) e quadre [   ]

The round brackets, parentesi tonde, contains words or sentences not indispensable for the speech, such as comments, explanations or examples.

For example: Cerbero (un mostro della mitologia) era terribile a vedersi.
                  Cerberus (a greek mythological monster) was horrible to see.
                  L’acqua (H2O) è formata dall’unione di idrogeno e ossigeno.
                  Water (H2O) is formed by the union between hydrogen and oxygen.

The square brackets, parentesi quadre, contains words or sentences that don’t belong to the text, but that are used in order to clarify its meaning. Are also used to suggest the excision of a text’s part.
For example: Egli [il poliziotto] affermava di non aver commesso alcun errore.
                  He [the policeman] claimed haven’t done any mistake.
                  Secondo la legge […] chi commette quel reato è perseguibile penalmente.
                  According to the law […] who commits that crime is prosecuted.

•    L’asterisco  *

The asterisk, asterisco, suggests that something has been volontary omitted.

For example: Il delitto era stato commesso nella città di *.
                  (The murder was committed in the town of *.)
                  Guido Bonaparte, conte di *, ha vissuto fino all’età di cento anni.
                  (Guido Bonaparte, count of *, lived for a century.)

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