Semicolon - Explore Its Functions and How to Use It in a Sentence with Examples

Semicolon – Explore Its Functions and How to Use It in a Sentence with Examples

Are you wondering if you should use a comma or a semicolon in a sentence? Most English language learners and users will have this confusion as they are very similar in nature. However, they cannot be used interchangeably. Learn when, where and how to use a semicolon in sentences by going through this article. Check out the examples given in the article as well to have a clearer idea of the functions of a semicolon and how to use it in sentences.

Table of Contents

A Semicolon – Meaning and Definition

A semicolon is a punctuation mark that can be used to separate independent clauses, as in a compound sentence. It can also be used to separate different lists in a sentence. The Oxford Learner’s Dictionary defines a semicolon as “the mark ( ; ) used to separate the parts of a complicated sentence or items in a detailed list, showing a pause that is longer than a comma but shorter than a period.”

A semicolon, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, “the symbol ; used in writing between two parts of a sentence, usually when each of the two parts could form grammatical sentences on their own. A semicolon can also separate the things in a list.” “A semicolon is the punctuation mark ; which is used in writing to separate different parts of a sentence or list or to indicate a pause”, according to the Collins Dictionary; and the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a semicolon as “a punctuation mark ; used chiefly in a coordinating function between major sentence elements (such as independent clauses of a compound sentence).”

Using a Semicolon in a Sentence – When, Where and How?

A semicolon is generally used in writing when you want to indicate a longer pause. In addition to this, there are various other functions. Let us take a look at each of them.

  • It can be used to separate different sets of items mentioned in a sentence.
  • It can be used to separate two independent clauses that do not have a coordinating conjunction linking them together. One way to check if you are doing it right is by substituting the semicolon with a full stop and checking if the two clauses are complete and make sense.
  • It can further be used before a conjunctive adverb in a compound sentence.

Difference between a Comma and a Semicolon

Let us find out how a semicolon differs from a comma by going through the table given below.

Comma

Semicolon

  • A comma is used to separate different items in a list.
  • A semicolon is used to separate different lists of items in a sentence.
  • A comma can be used to separate phrases and also to separate a phrase and a clause.
  • A semicolon can be used to separate two clauses.
  • A comma indicates a short pause.
  • A semicolon indicates a pause longer than a comma, but shorter than a full stop.
  • For example: Monica, Rachel, Phoebe, Chandler, Joey and Ross are my favourite characters.
  • For example: I like mangoes; my brother likes apples.

Examples of Sentences Using a Semicolon

A semicolon, as already discussed, can be used for various purposes. Let us look at a few examples to see how they perform the different functions.

Use of a Semicolon to Separate Various Lists in a Sentence

  • My mom had to buy potatoes, tomatoes, onions and capsicums; liquid detergent, body wash, hand wash and fabric softener; bread, butter and jam on her way home.
  • We met Santhosh, Rajesh and Aarav at the party; Tina, Sandy and Neetu in the lobby; Charles, Abdul and Sridevi on our way back.
  • Glint, the singer; Mikki, the photographer; Aldrin, the professor and Iniyan, the entrepreneur will be present for the gathering today evening.

Use of a Semicolon before Conjunctive Adverbs in Compound Sentences

  • We planned to take a trip to Goa; however, we could not go through with it.
  • The dress we picked was available in different colours; therefore, we decided to pick one for each of us.
  • Philip had to make the presentation today; otherwise, he would have to wait another week until he is given a chance.

Use of a Semicolon to Link Clauses in a Sentence

  • There was an accident in our area; the police have reported the case and taken the damaged vehicle to the station.
  • My brother had his final review today; he seems to have done it well.
  • I have watched F.R.I.E.N.D.S; I also like Glee.

Check Your Understanding of the Usage of Semicolon in Sentences

Go through the following sentences, identify if a comma or a semicolon is needed and use them appropriately.

1. Gowtham will be travelling to Spain Germany Japan and Russia.

2. Keerthi Suresh has done a number of movies ‘Nadigayar Thilakam’ is one of her best movies.

3. We had many options however we went with the first one we saw.

4. The last date was on Friday therefore we could not enrol ourselves for the international conference.

5. I will be coming home by then I will pick you up.

6. Last week all my friends surprised me by coming to my office.

7. In the meantime we looked around for a walking stick.

8. Whatever you want to do do it wholeheartedly.

9. Though it was raining Rahul and Akash went on the road trip they had planned.

10. It was late so we decided to stay at our friend’s place.

Now, check the sentences given below to find out if you have used the punctuation marks correctly.

1. Gowtham will be travelling to Spain, Germany,Japan and Russia.

2. Keerthi Suresh has done a number of movies; ‘Nadigayar Thilakam’ is one of her best movies.

3. We had many options; however, we went with the first one we saw.

4. The last date was on Friday; therefore, we could not enrol ourselves for the international conference.

5. I will be coming home by then; I will pick you up.

6. Last week, all my friends surprised me by coming to my office.

7. In the meantime, we looked around for a walking stick.

8. Whatever you want to do, do it wholeheartedly.

9. Though it was raining, Rahul and Akash went on the road trip they had planned.

10. It was late, so we decided to stay at our friend’s place.

Frequently Asked Questions on the Usage of Semicolons

What is a semicolon?

A semicolon is a punctuation mark that can be used to separate independent clauses, as in a compound sentence. It can also be used to separate different lists in a sentence.

What is the definition of a semicolon?

The Oxford Learner’s Dictionary defines a semicolon as “the mark ( ; ) used to separate the parts of a complicated sentence or items in a detailed list, showing a pause that is longer than a comma but shorter than a period.” A semicolon, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, “the symbol ; used in writing between two parts of a sentence, usually when each of the two parts could form grammatical sentences on their own. A semicolon can also separate the things in a list.” “A semicolon is the punctuation mark ; which is used in writing to separate different parts of a sentence or list or to indicate a pause”, according to the Collins Dictionary; and the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a semicolon as “a punctuation mark ; used chiefly in a coordinating function between major sentence elements (such as independent clauses of a compound sentence).”

What are the functions of a semicolon?

A semicolon can be used to perform various functions in a sentence and they are as follows.

  • It can be used to separate different sets of items mentioned in a sentence.
  • It can be used to separate two independent clauses that do not have a coordinating conjunction linking them together.
  • It can further be used before a conjunctive adverb in a compound sentence.

Give some examples of sentences using a semicolon.

Here are a few examples of sentences using a semicolon for your reference.

  • My mom had to buy potatoes, tomatoes, onions and capsicums; liquid detergent, body wash, hand wash and fabric softener; bread, butter and jam on her way home.
  • My brother had his final review today; he seems to have done it well.
  • I have watched F.R.I.E.N.D.S; I also like Glee.
  • The dress we picked was available in different colours; therefore, we decided to pick one for each of us.
  • Philip had to make the presentation today; otherwise, he would have to wait another week until he is given a chance.

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