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; Semicolon

Semicolons are mostly used in long sentences. For a more basic use (in a list), see the Starter Level.

Like full stops and commas, semicolons show pauses. The pause is greater than the pause shown by a comma, but not as great as that shown by a full stop (which ends a sentence).

The following describes two main uses of the semicolon.

To link parts of a sentence

The semicolon is used between two parts of a sentence which could each stand alone, but which are closely connected in meaning. Here the semicolon replaces a linking word.

Example

The weather is beautiful; the gardens all look gorgeous.

The following is also correct.
The weather is beautiful, and the gardens all look gorgeous.

The following are not correct.

*The weather is beautiful; and the gardens all look gorgeous.
Here, the semicolon is in place of and - you do not need both.

*The weather is beautiful, the gardens all look gorgeous.
Here, if you use a comma you do need the word and.

Beware
Linking words show how the second part of the sentence relates to the first. If this is not obvious, it may be best to use the linking word, rather than a semicolon.

Example

The weather is beautiful; the gardens all look gorgeous.
Here the missing linking word could be and, so or therefore. It makes little difference to the sense.

If your sentence is...
The weather is beautiful, however the gardens all look terrible.

If you replaced however with a semicolon the reader might be confused.
*The weather is beautiful; the gardens all look terrible.

In relation to words which show change

Some words show change from one situation or state to another e.g.: therefore; moreover; consequently; furthermore; indeed; in fact; however; that is.

Where part of a sentence begins with such words and follows another part of the sentence, you can use a semicolon before it (you could also use a comma).

Example

Global warming is changing the seasons; indeed, spring flowers are blooming in my garden in November.

© Learning & Teaching Institute, Sheffield Hallam University 2004