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In English quoted text is 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”

What is the correct form(s)?


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?

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I didn't know there was a different way! +1 :D –  Alenanno May 24 '11 at 23:08
    
@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 May 25 '11 at 10:47
    
I was mainly referring to „this” :D –  Alenanno May 25 '11 at 13:20
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BTW: in english you also wouldn't use "inches signs" but real “quotation marks” –  cgnieder Apr 18 '12 at 21:35
    
Actually, those are called straight quotation marks, I believe. Inches are marked with a double prime. –  jocap May 7 at 12:40

5 Answers 5

up vote 23 down vote accepted

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.

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Nice answer. How do you write the tiny spaces between the arrows and the text? –  Tim N May 25 '11 at 6:10
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Excellent 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 May 25 '11 at 10:52
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@fzwo " is in German a short hand for Zoll (inch). 2" are 2 inches. –  toscho May 25 '11 at 10:56
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+1 for " being acceptable when typing on a computer (and not using LaTeX). –  0x6d64 Nov 16 '11 at 7:13
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I 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 Oct 23 '12 at 16:23

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

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

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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.

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„…“ & ‚…‘

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.

You may use guillements (»…« and ›…‹) as an alternative, but „this“ is the preferred way.

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1  
Not in Switzerland. Even on the German Wikipedia, articles about Swiss terms use guillements. –  RegDwight May 25 '11 at 15:24
    
I guess in Switzerland there is just a high influence from French (obviously); but in “original” German those are the two ways. –  poke May 25 '11 at 20:08

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.

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There is more to it, see e.g. Wikipedia/Anführungszeichen. –  Tim N May 24 '11 at 23:01
    
is the wrong character for the final quotation marker in German. –  Debilski Jun 26 '11 at 9:59
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In French the guillemets are used the other way round, «like this». »This« is indeed valid in German although not as common as „this“. –  cgnieder Oct 23 '12 at 16:50

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