# What are the TeX definitions for the hyphen and dashes -, --, and ---?

I've tried `latexdef` which does not handle `---` as the operand. And `\texemdash` is defined as a character. So that leaves me once again leaning on the collective wisdom of the group :)

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They are font ligatures (defined in the TFM files) not macros. –  Khaled Hosny Jan 12 '13 at 5:35
About your remark on the tagging system: I suggest you test if you can reproduce the behavior (either on your next real question or on a dummy question that you delete right afterwards), and if so, post a bug report on TeX - LaTeX Meta, perhaps with screen shots as evidence. Odds are the Stack Exchange developers, who could fix this potential bug, won’t see your remark here. Thanks for caring! –  doncherry Jan 12 '13 at 5:51
Related is How does TeX's mechanism for sorting out quotation marks work?, which deals primarily with quotation marks. The underlying point is the same: this is all to do with font ligatures. –  Joseph Wright Jan 12 '13 at 8:04
I've removed the part about the tag system, which is not part of the question and as @doncherry says better suited to the meta site. –  Joseph Wright Jan 12 '13 at 11:17

There is no definition for `--` and `---`. They are ligatures defined in the font information, just like the ligatures `ff`, `fi` `fl` that turn into single glyphs without the need to specify it.

It's traditional that fonts define these ligatures (in addition to the f-ligatures)

• `--` for the endash –
• `---` for the emdash —
• `?`` for the inverted question mark ¿
• `!`` for the inverted exclamation mark ¡
• ```` for the opening double quotes “
• `''` for the closing double quotes ”

T1 encoded fonts usually have also

• `,,` for the double low quotation mark „
• `<<` for the opening double guillemets «
• `>>` for the closing double guillemets »

Other ones may be defined on a font basis, but shouldn't concern the user.

TeX transforms the combinations at a very deep stage of processing, basically when it's putting characters one after another to form words and paragraphs, very much later than the stage where macros are expanded.

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So I found---thanks for the 'compleate' answer! While this is usually the case, I'm using EB Garamond and while I can turn on the necessary TeX definition I decided to define my own versions of what was needed hence my question. –  hsmyers Feb 3 '13 at 4:07