I am writing a thesis in the Swedish language, where convention for quotations is to use right quotes or guillemets: " " or » »

But what when I quote e.g. an English source…

The Church has always emphasized the “public” character of its own liturgy.

or German …

Diese Bewegung von ,,unten" nach ,,oben" ist weiterhin deutlich spürbar.

Should I keep the quotation marks from the original source in the quoted text or change quotation marks according to the convention used in the rest of my text?

The second example above would then be rendered like this in my Swedish manuscript:

Glaser skriver att: "Diese Bewegung von ,,unten" nach ,,oben" ist weiterhin deutlich spürbar."


Glaser skriver att:”Diese Bewegung von ‘unten‘ nach ‘oben‘ ist weiterhin deutlich spürbar.”

  • I understand the question now but it might be a little clearer if you included more context around the quote. I assume the second one should actually be: The german sentence "Diese Bewegung von ,,unten" nach ,,oben" ist weiterhin deutlich spürbar." is a very interesting sentence May 16, 2017 at 10:46
  • @RichardTingle, yes you are right that it is a bit difficult. I used both as block quotes, but I could of course also use them as inline quotes.
    – trmdttr
    May 16, 2017 at 13:09
  • Or just italicize. Depending on how short the phrase is, this can be a nice way to smoothly insert a foreign word, and might even be the standard — in English usage, anyway. Not sure about Swedish. But for some people, this is almost the raison d'être of italics. May 16, 2017 at 14:14
  • Are you translating? Unless you are quoting text in the other language verbatim I would not use quotation marks at all. A translation is essentially paraphrasing rather than an exact quotation.
    – Tom Kelly
    May 17, 2017 at 3:51
  • @TomKelly No, I am not translating the quotes in this case. I am quoting verbatim.
    – trmdttr
    May 17, 2017 at 5:13

3 Answers 3


Quotes are punctuation.

Punctuation should always match the language of the reader. Or the primary language of the piece.

You would not use the Spanish exclamation settings in a German written piece.

  • If the piece is written in English, with a few quoted Swedish phrases, use English quote marks.
  • If the piece is written in Swedish, with a few quoted English phrases, use Swedish quotes.

Using foreign quote marks in a piece may look more interesting, they will however confuse the reader in most cases.

Perdue actually has guidelines for their thesis writings which support this viewpoint:

Keeping the whole sentence untranslated is a strategy that you could use when you are expecting your readers to know the language to some degree, or if you decide that the readers would benefit from reading and appreciating the original text. This is also the case, when the sentence might not be recognizable as an English translation, but is very well known in the original version.

Wisława Szymborska once wrote, “Tyle o sobie wiemy, na ile nas sprawdzono.” („We know ourselves only as far as we’ve been tested.”; 7)

Some texts that you are using might already contain specific formatting in a non-English language. In the example below, part of the quotation was written in italics. Preserve that original formatting in your quotation.

Gloria Anzaldúa switches between two languages when she talks about her childhood: “En boca cerrada no entran moscas. ‘Flies don’t enter a closed mouth’ is a saying I kept hearing when I was a child.” (2947)

  • But this is nothing more (and nothing less, of course!) than your opinion or feeling? It is interesting that the two answers so far are contradictory. And I have not yet found any style guide suggestions on this. (I have tried to add you with an @-reply, but it doesn't work for some reason…)
    – trmdttr
    May 16, 2017 at 13:13
  • @trmdttr Comments on someone's post always notifies the poster. Mentioning would be redundant.
    – Kroltan
    May 16, 2017 at 15:45
  • 1
    Actually @trmdttr the answers are not contradictory. We agree. Hagen merely addressed the internal structure within the outer quotes, which I did not in my answer. I'll update my answer to be more definitive.
    – Scott
    May 16, 2017 at 15:58
  • 1
    I'm confused by the quotes around "We know ourselves only as far as we've been tested." Since that's an English sentence quoted within an English text, why is it surrounded by German-style quotes? (And the quotes do appear that way in the original; it's not a transcription error in this post.) May 16, 2017 at 18:01
  • You would have to ask Perdue about that.
    – Scott
    May 16, 2017 at 18:01

The question may become relevant if yo have quotes within quotes, such as

In a recent post, trrndttr wrote “Diese Bewegung von ,,unten" nach ,,oben" ist weiterhin deutlich spürbar.”

The reason why I'd use German rules for the inner quotes is that all rules for the inner language apply there (e.g., no comma in "A, B und C" even if you'd have "A, B, and C" in English; or if there is Spanish involved, there might even be "unknown" characters such as the inverted question mark). And if it is actually a quotation, of course quotation rules apply, i.e., do not change the quote from its original. Nevertheless, I'd suggest single quotes in that case for the inner quotes (as is the custom for quotes-in-quotes in German. (Though admittedly, folowing this rule completely may produce weird combinations, e.g., with a British English text having an American English quote having a whatever inner quote (IIRC, BE uses single then double quotes, whereas AE uses double than single quotes).

But nothing of these arguments concernsthe "outer" quote, which should clearly (IMHO) follow the rules of the "outer" language.

  • Well, the outer quotes are marks that I put there, so I think they should follow my (or the text's) language conventions. The issue is about what should go inside the inline citation or blockquote (in the latter case no outer marks are needed).
    – trmdttr
    May 16, 2017 at 13:08
  • @trmdttr I agree that the outer quotation marks are a phenomenon of the quoting, not the quoted, phrase, and hence don't beg the conventions of the quoted language. The question is... does the disconcerting effect of seeing English quotation marks surrounding a German phrase outweigh this analysis? :) I would tend to match quotation marks to the quoted language because of that, but I was just corrected by a senior user on French Stack Exchange for using guillemets in the middle of my English sentences. He gave more or less the reason Metis gave above. May 16, 2017 at 14:11
  • 2
    @LukeSawczak: it is not disconcerting in the slightest (to a native English speaker) to see normal quotes around weird German. To borrow from programming, the quotes are not part of the string literal.
    – Yorik
    May 16, 2017 at 20:11
  • 1
    @Yorik Ah, well then. To each his own! May 17, 2017 at 2:43

You could check what are the rules for nested quotes (or 2nd and 3rd degree quotes) in Swedish language. For example in Poland we use German, then English marks. If you have third degree we use British apostrophe mark 'like this'

The only reason for leaving the original quotation marks is if you don't translate the quote so the whole block should reflect it "as it is" so with mistakes, errors and punctuation.

There is also possibility to use cursive, so you could write
"The Church has always emphasized the public character of its own liturgy."

Here is a link and an explanation https://depts.washington.edu/engl/askbetty/changing_quotations.php
it is in English and as you can see they kept the single quotation marks in the 2nd level quotes.

  • My question concerns citing a whole section of text verbatim. If I quote a whole paragraph of English text, containing some quotation marks, should I keep these identical to the original or change them to fit the language convention I otherwise use in the text?
    – trmdttr
    May 24, 2017 at 10:21
  • @trmdttr You should keep the original quotation marks. You cite the whole text as it is. Any errors or mistakes should be keept. May 24, 2017 at 11:10
  • Ok, thank you, that is a clear answer. Do you have any reference to back this up? (Would be great if you also could edit your answer to reflect you latest comment.)
    – trmdttr
    May 24, 2017 at 12:43

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