What is the correct way to denote a quotation in German?

48

15

In English, quoted texts are normally written in speech marks, "like this," or occasionally 'like this.'

However on this site I have seen people writing German quotes like »this« and „this.“

Which form is correct?


Im Englischen werden normalerweise Gänsefüßchen "wie diese" oder gelegentlich 'diese' für Zitate verwendet.

Auf dieser Seite habe ich jedoch auch »diese« und „diese“ für deutsche Zitate gesehen.

Welche Form ist korrekt?

Twelve47

Posted 2011-05-24T22:32:24.243

Reputation: 720

4BTW: in english you also wouldn't use "inches signs" but real “quotation marks” – cgnieder – 2012-04-18T21:35:38.920

I didn't know there was a different way! +1 :D – Alenanno – 2011-05-24T23:08:24.650

Actually, those are called straight quotation marks, I believe. Inches are marked with a double prime. – jocap – 2014-05-07T12:40:29.377

@Alenanno Double quotes are considered standard english, although single quotes would be understood. The single quote is tends be used if you quoting a quote, eg he said "the newspaper claimed 'the sky is blue.' " – Twelve47 – 2011-05-25T10:47:51.873

I was mainly referring to „this” :D – Alenanno – 2011-05-25T13:20:13.567

1What you're quoting is American English. British English would use (in order of preference) single quotes like this ’, or double quotes like this ”. (Note the placement of the full stop and comma.) (There should be no spaces, but apparantly that's not possible in comment formatting.) – Jan – 2015-04-23T10:05:13.877

Answers

42

There are three legal variants:

  1. Gänsefüßchen and for quotations in quotations ‚ ‘.
  2. »Guillemets« and › ‹
  3. Reversed «Guillemets» and ‹ ›. There is usually a thin space between the word and the quotation mark.

The first version is the most used in Germany, followed by the second.
The third is the preferred in Switzerland but allowed in a German text too.

When to use what?

Use „Gänsefüßchen“ for handwritings. They are easy to write.

Use »Guillemets« for printed text or for text for the screen. They don’t break the line as hard as „Gänsefüßchen“, and all fonts use them correctly. „Gänsefüßchen“ on the other hand are broken in Tahoma and Verdana: They point in the wrong direction.

enter image description here

How to type?

On a German PC keyboard the characters are not available. But there is useful software for Windows. ac'tivAid Forte has a module CharacterAid:

CharacterAid

AllChars offers some easy to learn shortcuts:

AllChars

On a Mac they can be entered with + + W for and + [ for .

This article lists more options for the most common operating systems.

Don’t ever use ' and " just because they are easy to type.

fuxia

Posted 2011-05-24T22:32:24.243

Reputation: 1 115

3I always try to use the right marks. On a German keyboard quotation marks are often available through AltGr+y (»), AltGr+x («), AltGr+v („), AltGr+b (“) and AltGr+n (”). – cgnieder – 2012-10-23T16:23:02.823

Nice answer. How do you write the tiny spaces between the arrows and the text? – Tim – 2011-05-25T06:10:02.337

Interestingly enough, most other answers to the this question use instead of the correct . – swegi – 2011-05-25T08:46:01.083

@Tim I don’t have a short cut for the Thin Space. In Opera I type just the Unicode code point 202f and then I hit Ctrl+Shift+X. Other programs offer a character table. Not all fonts have a Thin Space, and some browsers fail very ugly if they can’t substitute it from another font. Therefore Thin Space is dying silently. – fuxia – 2011-05-25T10:27:01.323

1@swegi, your example is not actually correct. The correct form for the closing quotation mark is . – fzwo – 2011-05-25T10:51:12.540

13Excellent answer, but " is perfectly acceptable in machine-written text, for e-mail, forums, etc. Word should autocorrect to the correct marks when language is set to German (Germany). – fzwo – 2011-05-25T10:52:43.710

1@fzwo " is in German a short hand for Zoll (inch). 2" are 2 inches. – fuxia – 2011-05-25T10:56:13.587

1@toscho I know, it's also short for inch in english. That doesn't mean it can't be used as a quotation mark when writing on a machine. It's not great style, typographically, but it's allowed. – fzwo – 2011-05-25T11:01:40.497

Attention there is a known bug in AllChars when used on Windows 7 together with IE9: https://sourceforge.net/tracker/?func=detail&aid=3186922&group_id=188828&atid=926877. I didn't yet find out if/or how I can use it on my system.

– bernd_k – 2011-06-25T21:07:13.447

Absolutely agree with fzwo. Apart from handwriting, I never bothered to use some "proper" German speech marks and don't know anyone who does. Also, the Guillemets look very old fashioned to me and I only know them from printed books. – ladybug – 2011-06-27T09:09:57.010

@fzwo: You are right. I copied the signs from a of quotation marks and I see only a difference if I make the font size bigger. – swegi – 2011-05-25T13:40:47.837

4+1 for " being acceptable when typing on a computer (and not using LaTeX). – 0x6d64 – 2011-11-16T07:13:34.340

+1 for a very detailed (not to mention illustrated) answer. – Aaron – 2012-03-11T04:04:14.393

15

For LaTeX-User there is a nice description in Mikrotypographie-Regeln (German)

It starts on page 8, page 11 contains a quick overview:

enter image description here

knut

Posted 2011-05-24T22:32:24.243

Reputation: 7 558

1^ The very reason why answering a question with essentially a link alone is discouraged. – H3br3wHamm3r81 – 2016-06-19T03:03:09.537

9

„…“ & ‚…‘

These are the two correct ways to quote in german. Note that unless in most other languages, including English, the direction of the quotes is the other way round. While English quotes (“…”) are 66-99, in German it is the other way round: 99-66 (if you look at the symbols in a serif font, you will see what the 6/9 refers to). And of course apart from the direction, the first one is placed at the bottom.

The Duden has a nice summary on the rules according to the “Deutsche Rechtschreibung”. In rule 12, they explain when to use the half quotes (‚…‘), which is when they are within another quotation (denotated by full quotes: „…“).

You may use guillements (»…« and ›…‹) as an alternative, but „this“ is the preferred way. Note that they are used as chevrons which means that they are pointing inwards. This is different from its usage in French (and German in Switzerland).

poke

Posted 2011-05-24T22:32:24.243

Reputation: 1 575

2Not in Switzerland. Even on the German Wikipedia, articles about Swiss terms use guillements. – RegDwight – 2011-05-25T15:24:56.287

I guess in Switzerland there is just a high influence from French (obviously); but in “original” German those are the two ways. – poke – 2011-05-25T20:08:49.710

6

Using a typewriter, " is the correct form to denote the quotation mark in German.

For text written by hand and letterpress printing in Germany we use „“

Currently these characters are displayed here by the Verdana font „“.

Hopefully when this site leaves beta, it will get a default font, which renders these characters in a correct way. I have seen Home improvement leaving beta and they got a different font.

If we type „“ now, it will automatically be rendered in the correct way after we leave beta.

I found a further tool to type these characters: Type German characters.

There is a similar tool to type IPA phonetic symbols.

Both tools are web pages, i.e. no installation required.

bernd_k

Posted 2011-05-24T22:32:24.243

Reputation: 5 214

4

As far as I know » this « is French quoting style and „this” is German. Not only the correct quoting symbols are important though. I remember quite specific rules for commas etc. that we learned at school, which were quite different from the English and French. This might be another question though and cannot be answered by me in detail.

Peter Patzt

Posted 2011-05-24T22:32:24.243

Reputation: 619

1

There is more to it, see e.g. Wikipedia/Anführungszeichen.

– Tim – 2011-05-24T23:01:40.790

2In French the guillemets are used the other way round, «like this». »This« is indeed valid in German although not as common as „this“. – cgnieder – 2012-10-23T16:50:46.280

2 is the wrong character for the final quotation marker in German. – Debilski – 2011-06-26T09:59:29.613

» this « is wrong in French and German. In French Language you use « Guillemets » with padding spaces that are pointing outside the quoted text. In German Language you can use »Chevrons« which have no padding space and point inside. Also „this” is wrong everywhere. The opening sign is corrext (looks like 99) but the closing sign should look like 66 like „here“. – Hubert Schölnast – 2015-04-23T06:57:58.120

1

Windows Character Map:

» = Alt + 0171 « = Alt + 0187 „ = Alt + 0132

user15677

Posted 2011-05-24T22:32:24.243

Reputation: 19

2Welcome to German language SO. An answer should actually fit the question, which yours does not really do. Would you mind editing it, so it does fit? – Burki – 2015-04-23T06:51:50.627

1You answered the Question »How can I enter some quoting characters on a Windows Computer?« But nobody asked this question. The real question was: »What is the correct way to denote a quotation in German?«. Sorry, you get no upvote for this. – Hubert Schölnast – 2015-04-23T07:02:14.220

1

The English Wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org) has an extensive, well researched and definitive article on the use of quotation marks in most countries of the world. The graphics for the quotes are set out in two main columns (Primary and Alternative usage), with each main column subdivided into the graphics for double and single quotes.

For "German" the primary usage is listed as single and double quotes. The alternative usage is the inward pointing single arrows rather than the internationally more common outward pointing arrows.

On the other hand, Swiss German is listed in the article's table as having exactly the opposite usage, but with outward pointing arrows as the primary usage, and quotes as the alternative usage, i.e., quote marks rather than inward pointing arrows is perhaps the preferred usage.

As for terminology, the Wikipedia article indicates that Gänsefüßchen ("little goose feet") is the name for the arrow quotes, with Anführungszeichen as the name for quote marks. And from their appearance, I'd say that "little goose feet" is a very appropriate name for arrow quotes.

Finally, User 15677's ALT-code answer that two commenters deprecated was more than helpful to me, as I have have for many years been using ALT-codes to enter the umlauted vowels Ää Ëë Ïï Öö and Üü not found on my English language QWERTY keyboard, as well as the double-ess character "ß". Serendipitously, I happen to be engrossed in mapping the ALT-codes for my Sütterlin script fonts and User 15677's answer put me on to a character I'd been looking for, the "hyphen" character (ALT+0173). And I thank the member very much for obliquely helping me to find it!

К. Келлогг Смиф

Posted 2011-05-24T22:32:24.243

Reputation: 359

What user15677 has written does not answer the question, and we want answers to do that. – Carsten S – 2017-07-17T07:54:40.317

Carsten S: Being helpful is one of the cornerstones of the original SE, as well as this one. But your comment lacked the helpfulness that we expect from all participants in the various SE forums. Your comment would have been far more helpful if you had at least taken the time to explain what you mean by commenting to 'user 15677' that the answer he gave didn't answer the question. But that user very certainly did, by pointing out the ISO "Latin 1" keyboard codes that generate not only the primary German quote marks, but also the code needed to print the alternate (lower) character as well. – К. Келлогг Смиф – 2017-07-18T00:12:37.570

I did not try to communicate with the user who posted his (possibly helpful) non-answer two years ago, but with you, who answered yesterday. However, there was no need, as you obviously already know it all. – Carsten S – 2017-07-18T06:42:16.620