Does Italian allow "—" for parenthetical use?


In English you can use a number of different styles to add parenthetical remarks. For example:

  • Juventus, as you may know, has won the most Scudetti.
  • Some would say it's 29 (and technically they're right).
  • Others however claim it's 31 — although they're usually die-hard Juventus supporters.

Is the dash style of parenthetical remarks also allowed by Italian grammar? I know I've casually used it from time to time and no one seemed confused by it, but that doesn't make it right.


Posted 2013-11-16T11:13:12.047

Reputation: 483

1OT: those claiming it's 31 are doing to sports what revisionists are doing to history and creationists to science. – o0'. – 2013-11-16T12:57:47.980

That being said, I'd only use n-dash inside a sentence, and m-dash only at the beginning, for direct speech. – o0'. – 2013-11-16T12:59:20.643

1@lohoris let's not go there. Question edited :-) – badp – 2013-11-16T13:00:32.500


@Lohoris In typography, mdash is for parenthetical use, ndash is for ranges.

– Sklivvz – 2013-11-16T18:08:08.637

3@Sklivvz That's British typography. In Italy the en-dash is frequently used instead of the em-dash (with spaces at either end, usually). I suspect that the Wikipedia page you refer is more or less a translation from the English one. – egreg – 2013-11-16T21:13:52.153

the link is about Italian typography – Sklivvz – 2013-11-16T21:15:17.767

3@Sklivvz Don't trust it.wikipedia; many entries are simply translations from English. – egreg – 2013-11-16T21:16:32.573

surely you can convince me with a better reference then, and maybe fix the Wikipedia page :-) – Sklivvz – 2013-11-16T21:18:59.297

@egreg by the way, I can't certainly be accused of being complacent towards Wikipedia as a Skeptics moderator... ;-)

– Sklivvz – 2013-11-16T21:43:59.367

1I said, let's not go there :P – badp – 2013-11-16T22:42:39.770



Traditional Italian usage admits the n-dash in couples only. To rewrite one of your examples: «Juventus – as you may know – has won the most Scudetti». The single dash to introduce a clause at the end of a sentence is quite recently borrowed from English, but doesn't belong to usual Italian punctuation.

To quote from Bice Mortara Garavelli, Prontuario di punteggiatura, Laterza 2003:

Come marca iniziale di una parentetica inserita alla fine di una frase si può trovare una lineetta priva della lineetta terminale correlativa. Tradizionalmente, per un inserto che si trovi in tale posizione, si preferiscono alle lineette le parentesi (una in apertura e una in chiusura seguita dal punto finale), oppure la virgola iniziale [...].


Posted 2013-11-16T11:13:12.047

Reputation: 22 998

you speak of m-dash (—) but use the n-dash (–) in your example. Actually, AFAIK your example is correct, and you should replace m-dash with n-dash in your first sentence. BTW, in the Apple keyboard layout the n-dash is "command dash", while the m-dash is "command shift dash." – Walter Tross – 2015-11-15T23:25:42.103

@WalterTross: Right, thanks! – DaG – 2015-11-16T09:07:55.880


I used to attend a school for translators, and all the translators who gave us lessons used to tell us that the m-dash is actually allowed by Italian grammar but no more in use, so we SHOULD NOT use it while translating from English or German; instead, we could turn it into brackets, commas or other punctuation, as the case requires.

Mad Hatter

Posted 2013-11-16T11:13:12.047

Reputation: 351

1I assure you that I am translating a book from English to Italian and we are leaving all parenthetical m-dashes, while converting the single ones to comma or colons. – mau – 2014-03-15T16:48:47.920