Punctuation Marks in Spanish and Finnish

Some punctuation marks are used differently in Spanish than in Finnish. The comma, for example, has a very different usage in Finnish than in Spanish. If you’re a nitpicker like me who writes and translates high quality texts (particularly in foreign languages), you’ll know this is not at all an exaggeration.

Here are some examples of the differences in punctuation between Spanish and Finnish:

Example 1 – Comma

The most considerable difference in the usage of the comma between Spanish and Finnish is related to que-clauses (that-clauses). In Finnish, one must use a comma before clauses that function as objects or as indirect interrogative clauses, whereas in Spanish this is not the norm. In general, the rules for comma usage are looser in Spanish than they are in Finnish. There are similarities, however, such as the usage of a comma after a subordinate clause (when the subordinate clause is followed by main clause), as one example.

[EN: I suppose that they will bring it tomorrow.]

SP: Supongo que lo van a traer mañana.

FIN: Oletan, että he tuovat sen huomenna.

Clauses that function as objects: Spanish does not use comma, but Finnish uses a comma.

[EN: When I opened the door, there was a cat on the street.]

SP: Cuando abrí la puerta, había un gato en la calle.

FIN: Kun avasin oven, kadulla oli kissa.

Subordinate clause followed by main clause: both Spanish and Finnish use a comma.


Example 2 – Interrogation Marks and Exclamation Marks

The main difference between Spanish and Finnish, regarding the usage of interrogation and exclamation marks, is the way these marks are placed upside down in Spanish at the beginning of a question or an exclamatory sentence. This is an easy rule to learn. What is sometimes a bit confusing for a Finnish speaker is that these upside down interrogation and exclamation marks can also appear in the middle of a sentence in Spanish.

[EN: What time did you wake up?]

SP: ¿A qué hora te levantaste?

FIN: Mihin aikaan heräsit?

[EN: And what time did your parents leave?]

SP: Y tus padres, ¿a qué hora se fueron?

FIN: Entä mihin aikaan vanhempasi lähtivät?


Example 3 – Hyphenation

In the Finnish language, a hyphen is relatively common, which can tempt a Finnish speaker to use it in Spanish as well in places where it does not belong. One example of typical usage of a hyphen in Finnish is compound nouns. If the first word ends and the second word begins with a vowel, a hyphen must link them. This is not the case in Spanish; in fact, compounds in Finnish can’t even be translated into Spanish with a single word. One characteristic of Spanish is the usage of a hyphen with compound adjectives, whereas in Finnish they are usually written together.

[EN: Late riser]

FIN: Aamu-uninen

SP: Dormilón

A typical compound noun in Finnish where a hyphen links two words.

[EN: It’s a French-Spanish company.]

SP: Es una empresa franco-española.

FIN: Se on ranskalaisespanjainen yritys.


Compound adjectives: Spanish uses a hyphen and Finnish does not.

Hence, being scrupulous is a translator’s virtue. Translating content correctly without minding punctuation conventions of the target language can render the content unintelligible.