What Is the Upside-Down Question Mark?
Origins of the Upside-Down Question Mark
In the 1754, the Real Academia Española(Spanish Royal Academy) declared that a signo de apertura de interrogación(opening question mark) must be used at the beginning of all questions. In Spanish, it can be very difficult to distinguish questions from statements. For example, take a look at the following two sentences:
Notice that the only written difference between the two Spanish sentences is punctuation, whereas the English sentences take on a different syntax depending on whether they are statements or questions. For this reason, the Real Academia decided that every question in Spanish must begin with this unique punctuation mark in order to avoid any confusion. Although it took a while for this new rule to catch on, it has now been fully adopted into the language.
Using the Upside-Down Question Mark
As already mentioned, the upside-down question mark is used at the beginning of a question. Notice that it can appear in the middle of a sentence when the sentence contains an interrogative clause. Check out the following examples:
An interrogative clause is a grammatical unit that contains a subject and a predicate, and has the syntax of a question. In simpler terms, it is a question-like phrase that may stand alone or be placed within a sentence, such as the purple text in the following examples:
Although it is grammatically incorrect, Spanish speakers often do not use the upside-down question mark in virtual communications, such as text messages and emails.
How to Type the ¿ Symbol
If you're not using a Mac computer, check out this table below for some additional keyboard shortcuts that you can use:
|Windows||Press "Alt + 0191"|
|Chromebook||Press "Ctrl + Shift" followed by "u + 00bf"|
|Android and iOS||Long hold the "?" symbol and drag finger up to select the upside-down question mark|
Don't want to remember all of these confusing shortcuts? Bookmark this page so that you can copy and paste the upside-down question mark whenever you need it!