I saw this exclamatory sentence on the internet.

When I searched more, I found that all of the typed Spanish exclamatory sentences have this symbol.

Also, who was the first person that used it, and why?

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  • It's called an exclamation mark. Both exclamation marks and interrogation marks are placed upside down at the beginning of Spanish sentences that take the former. Someone else here will surely give you the history of this...
    – Lambie
    Oct 30, 2020 at 20:01
  • See Origin and usage of “¿” and “¡” for its origin.
    – fedorqui
    Nov 2, 2020 at 11:26

1 Answer 1


You are referring to the upside down exclamation point, or inverted exclamation mark "¡" a punctuation sign that in Spanish goes at the beginning of a sentence, paring its closing counterpart symbol "!" at the end.

It is important because (pronunciation-wise) sets the needed emphasis and tone of exclamation phrases (both for when read or spoken). Therefore, it is needed in the same sense that an opening inverted question symbol (¿) must appear before a question along with its closing mark (?), as those pairs allow to differentiate phrases otherwise grammatically similar.

See how the same three sentences acquire their informative, questioning or exclaiming forms only with them:

Ellos están viniendo [They are arriving]
¿Ellos están viniendo? [Are they arriving?]
¡Ellos estan viniendo! [They are arriving!]

The opening exclamation sign was first seen during medieval times created by Latin typists; it is in use in the Spanish language (the only one that employs it) since the 18th century; and was first officially recomended by the Real Academia Española in its second edition of 1754.

  • Thanks. Can you please explain about the "estan"s in your examples? One has a tilde and the others don't. Oct 30, 2020 at 20:58
  • No, they shoud be the same (i corrected that typo)
    – ipp
    Oct 30, 2020 at 21:44
  • Of course it does raise the question as to why other languages can get away with with a single symbol (EG as shown in your English translations of your examples)
    – Peter M
    Oct 31, 2020 at 20:30
  • @PeterM In English, you aren't necessarily required to stick to the interrogative sentence rule. So "Are they arriving?" and "They are arriving?" are both correct. But their tones are different. If you want to read the second question form (or a longer sentence of that form) you may think it is an informative sentence until you reach the question mark! (The same about the exclamatory sentences); The difference is that other languages simply didn't follow the Spanish rule for themselves from the beginning. Now I myself think it is better all languages follow this rule. Oct 31, 2020 at 22:26
  • @Peter M, yes that is a broad and interesting question. We do know that in Spanish having the openin sign gives an anticipary advantage for setting the necessary entonation. May be this read en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intonation_(linguistics) is worth checking regarding what you wonder about the tone in various languages?
    – ipp
    Oct 31, 2020 at 22:29

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