#137 - Semi-colon (;) - English Grammar

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A semi-colon is used to express a pause between thoughts. The function of the semi-colon is somewhere between a period and a comma. Periods are a full stop to a sentence. Commas indicate a pause. Semi-colons do not pause as long as periods, but they are slightly longer than commas. Semi-colons never replace the function of a colon.

Semi-colon in Place of a Period

A semi-colon is used to join two independent clauses. It can be used in place of a period to join two closely linked sentences. Do not use a semi-colon when a dependent clause comes before an independent clause. Do not capitalize the first item after a semi-colon unless it's a proper noun.
  • Call me later; we can discuss our travel plans then.
  • We have paid the past due balance; our account should be current.
  • I need to stop overeating; I have to go on a diet.
  • My mom is an engineer; my dad is a doctor.

Semi-colon Used with Conjunctive Adverbs

Conjunctive adverbs are words that join independent clauses into one sentence. A conjunctive adverb helps you create a shorter sentence. When you use a conjunctive adverb, put a semicolon (;) before it and a comma (,) after it. Some examples of conjunctive adverbs are: finally, however, otherwise, then, or therefore.
  • I waited all week for this moment; finally, it's here.
  • The toy store had many stuffed animals; however, it did not have the one my daughter wanted.
  • We have to advertise our store; otherwise, some people may not know we're open now.
  • I was having a good time; then, it was time to leave.
  • I didn't study for the test; therefore, I failed it.

Semi-colon in Place of Commas

A semi-colon can be used to separate items on a list when the items contain commas themselves.
  • I have visited New Delhi, India; Beijing, China; Moscow, Russia; and Abu Dhabi, Dubai.
  • I bought three pairs of shoes: knee-high, black boots; shiny, red high-heels; and casual, white sneakers.
  • I am going to the mall with John, my brother; Linda, my sister; and Nancy, my cousin.

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