Grammar and punctuation

Direct speech: Using inverted commas

Direct speech: Using inverted commas

Select Lesson

Explainer Video

Tutor: Jonathan


Direct speech: Using inverted commas

​​In a nutshell

Direct speech is a report of the exact words used by a speaker or writer. One way to identify direct speech is to look for words, phrases or sentences in inverted commas. There are a few rules when it comes to punctuating direct speech that you need to take note of. These will be discussed in this summary.

The rules of direct speech

Direct speech is a report of the exact words used by a speaker or writer written inside inverted commas. Inverted commas are also sometimes called speech marks or quotation marks. Speech marks always come in pairs ("..." or '...') and they go before and after direct speech, surrounding what has been said by the speaker.

Rule 1

The first set of speech marks goes before the first word that is being said. If the speech starts in the middle of a sentence, you will need to put a comma before the speech marks to introduce the speech.


William called out to his sister, "It's time to go home, Sarah!"

Rule 2

The first word in direct speech should always start with a capital letter even if the reporting speech is in the middle of a sentence.


"Have you cleaned your room?"

The man shouted, "Help!" and ran towards the police station

Rule 3

When the speech ends, you need to end it with a punctuation mark. Use a full stop if the sentence ends and a point has been made; use a question mark if a question is being asked; use an exclamation mark if strong feelings, such as surprise, anger or joy is being expressed.


"I'm not too sure what to do."

"Did you go to school yesterday?"

"Wow, that's amazing!"

Rule 4

The second set of speech marks should go after the punctuation mark at the end of the sentence.


"I'm so happy for you!"

Tip: if the sentence carries on after the direct speech, you need to place a comma before the second set of speech marks, then you can continue the sentence (unless the direct speech is a question or exclamation, in which case no comma is used).


"I'm so hungry," Sandeep complained walking towards the restaurant.

"I don't want to!" he shouted.

Rule 5

When a new speaker is introduced, it should be written on a new line.


"What time is the bus coming?" asked Marianne.

"I'm not too sure," replied Julie.

Rule 6

Phrases like 'Sandeep complained', 'he said', or 'asked Julie' that come before or after a direct speech are called reporting clauses and they show you who is speaking. 

If the reporting clause comes after the dialogue, you put a comma after the dialogue and inside the speech marks.


"He's my friend," said Mark.

If the reporting clause sits in the middle of a dialogue then a comma comes before and after the reporting clause.


"I don't want to go to school tomorrow," added Riana, "but I am writing an English test."

Speech marks

Some writers use double speech marks ("...") and some use single speech marks ('...'). You can use either type as long as you are consistent. Don't switch between the two in your writing.


"Sit down!" exclaimed the teacher.


'Sit down!' exclaimed the teacher.

Create an account to read the summary


Create an account to complete the exercises

FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions

Should I use single speech marks or double speech marks in direct speech?

If the sentence continues after the direct speech, what punctuation mark should I use?

Should the second set of speech marks go before or after the punctuation mark?

Should I capitalise the first word in direct speech?

What is direct speech?


I'm Vulpy, your AI study buddy! Let's study together.