Round brackets (Parenthesis) and Square brackets in English

In this post, we learn how to use round brackets, also known as Parenthesis, and square brackets in sentences.

What are brackets in English?

Brackets in English are punctuation marks that are used to give extra information about something in a sentence. The information that comes within the brackets can be taken out of the sentence without changing the meaning of the sentence as it’s not a part of the original sentence.

Brackets come in a pair: opening bracket and closing bracket. An opening bracket comes right before the extra information and a closing bracket comes right after it.

There are two types of brackets:

1. Round bracket (Parentheses)
2. Square bracket

Round brackets

Round brackets, which are often known as parenthesis, are used to give relevant yet nonessential information in a sentence. They often work like a comma here.

Let’s look at the situations where round brackets are used.

A) To describe a noun or a pronoun with extra information.

Round brackets are often used to describe a noun or a pronoun. Note that the information that comes within the brackets is nonessential and can be taken be out of the sentence without changing its meaning.

Examples:

  • My father (a doctor) hasn’t come back home in 25 days.
  • Dana White (the president of the UFC) has tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Dr. Manmohan Singh (the former Prime Minister of India) has appealed to the government to increase the testing process.
  • I have never his mother (a doctor) talk to anyone rudely.

Note: Commas can be used in place of round brackets to add nonessential information. They are more common to add additional information.

  • My father, a doctor, hasn’t come back home in 25 days.
  • Dana White, the president of the UFC, has tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Dr. Manmohan Singh, the former Prime Minister of India, has appealed to the government to increase the testing process.
  • I have never his mother, a doctor, talk to anyone rudely.

If we add some information or pass a comment about something or the entire sentence and the information is nonessential, we can use round brackets to add the information to the sentence.

  • Most people believe (including me) that he tricked the academy to get to the finals (Vijay Hazare Trophy 2021).
  • They left me on the street (How can they?!) and let me freeze there.

B) To define abbreviations.

Examples:

We use round brackets to definite abbreviations.

  • The WHO (World Health Organization) has released some frightening data in relation to COVID-19.
  • I am a huge fan of the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship).
  • Jon is the CEO (the president of a company) of this company).

C) To pluralize a noun (option).

We use the letter ‘s’ within the round brackets right after a singular noun, without any space, to show that it can be considered both singular and plural.

Examples:

  • Please drop me a message if you come across any English teacher(s).
  • Leave your wallet(s) at the reception if you have any.
Round brackets examples
Round brackets examples

Square brackets [ ]

Square brackets in English are used to modify a direct quote. Let’s look at when to use square brackets in sentences.

A) Use square brackets to add additional information within a direct quote or someone’s work to clarify something.

  • My father always says, “Don’t worry about them [failures] and give your best.”

The square brackets is coming next to the word ‘them’ as what it means is something that the writer, not the original writer, knows. So the editor is using the square brackets to explain what ‘them’ means: failures.

Original sentence: My father always says, “Don’t worry about them and give your best.”

More examples:

  • Our enemies [Russia, China, and Japan] are waiting to see us lose.
  • Never leave them [parents].

B) To add something to a direct quote as a correction.

If a direct quotation has an error in it, use square brackets to add the correction next to the incorrect part.

Examples:

  • “He love[s] painting stones,” he said.

    Original Words: “He love painting stones,” he said.
  • He was [an] amazing teacher.

    Original words: He was amazing teacher.
  • We has [have] never been to a foreign country.

    Original words: We has never been to a foreign country.

C) The term [sis] indicates that the original author made a mistake.

  • It was the first time he gave someone a complement [sis].
  • “Will you merry [sis] me?”, he asked.
  • I can’t sell my principals [sis] for money.

Original texts:

  • It was the first time he gave someone a complement.
  • “Will you merry me?”, he asked.
  • I can’t sell my principals for money.

Notice that the writer is just pointing out the mistake the original writer made in the original text; he/she is not correcting it.

D) Using three dots within square brackets […] to show some information is taken out of the original statement of the author.

Three dots (ellipses) within the square brackets are used to show that some part of the original quote is taken out to shorten it. It is done when the original text is too lengthy and the editor wants to highlight the main information.

Examples:

  • We were coming to your place […] but then my mother got very sick, and we had to take her to a hospital.

Original: We were coming to your place. Everyone was very excited to join the party and had a lot in their minds, but then my mother got very sick and, we had to take her to a hospital.

Note that we removed some information from the original text in order to deliver the main message and set off the unnecessary information. But doing it should not change the meaning of the original text or leave out any important point. If it does, don’t edit the original text.

Square brackets examples
Square brackets examples

Congratulations! You have mastered how to use round brackets and square brackets in English. Feel free to correct any typing mistake you come across and share the post with others to help!

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