When to use brackets in English

Brackets (also called parentheses) are used to include additional information that is not essential to the meaning of the sentence. Find out more about brackets by clicking the tabs below.

  • Additional Information
  • Abbreviations and Acronyms
  • Lists
  • Short Translations
  • Area Codes and Time Zones
  • Other Punctuation

Additional Information

Enclose additional information in brackets when it is not essential to the meaning of the sentence.

Connor (Amy's boyfriend) bought the tickets.
The parrot, the cat and the mouse were all best friends (even though they should hate each other).


Depending on the importance attached to it, additional information can be enclosed in brackets, commas or dashes.

Brackets – not important

Connor (Amy's boyfriend) bought the tickets.

Commas – neutral

Connor, Amy's boyfriend, bought the tickets.

Dashes – emphasised

Connor – Amy's boyfriend – bought the tickets.

Go to comma and dash to learn more about using punctuation to add emphasis in English grammar.

Abbreviations and Acronyms

Use brackets when writing abbreviations or acronyms in a text for the first time. The acronym or abbreviation may then be used in place of a full name in the remainder of the text.

He was an active member of the IOC (International Olympic Committee).
He was an active member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).


Numbers or letters of a list can be enclosed in brackets.

Please state the following information in your application: (a) your full name and date of birth, (b) your address and contact phone number, (c) your highest level of education, (d) at least one personal or professional reference.

Go to comma and colon and semicolon to learn more about punctuation in lists.

Short Translations

In unquoted texts, enclose short translations in brackets.

She didn’t know much Italian, just per favore (please) and grazie (thank you).

Area Codes and Time Zones

Area codes are often enclosed in brackets.

For more information or to make a booking, please call us at (313) 9776 1425.

Enclose time zones, written after the time, in brackets.

We’ll wil meet at 9:00 am (EST).

Other Punctuation

Full stops, question marks or exclamation marks are usually put outside the brackets unless they enclose a complete sentence.

Lucy likes tropical fruit (but she doesn’t like tropical weather).
Surprisingly, Lucy likes tropical fruit. (She doesn’t like tropical weather.)