Using semicolons

Home learning focus

Learn how to use semicolons.

This lesson includes:

  • three videos

  • three activities

Learn

Watch this video and remind yourself of the difference between semicolons and colons.

A semicolon can be used instead of a full stop between two related sentences or independent clauses. This links them together in a way a full stop does not.

Learn the difference between semicolons and colons.

Watch this video to understand what semicolons are and how they should be used.

Learn how to use semicolons.

Semicolons in sentences

A semicolon can also replace a coordinating conjunction that links two independent clauses together.

For example:

  • The doctor’s superhero cape is yellow and the nurse's cape is green.

Becomes...

  • The doctor’s superhero cape is yellow; the nurse's cape is green.

We don’t use a capital letter after a semicolon as it isn’t a new sentence.

The only time we would use a capital letter after a semicolon is when the word is a proper noun (the name of a person or place, eg Sophia).

Semicolons and lists

Semicolons have another important job! They help keep sentences in order, especially when separating information about items in a list. Use them instead of a comma in lists to show which items are grouped together.

For example:

Maham scanned through her list for the trip to the seaside: food, for the picnic; toys, for the beach; a swimsuit, for going in the sea and a sunhat, to protect her head.

Practise

You may need paper and a pen or pencil for some of these activities.

Activity 1

Test your knowledge of semicolons by completing this quiz.

Activity 2

Watch this video all about the inspirational Victorian nurse Florence Nightingale.

Find out more about Florence Nightingale - the founder of modern nursing.

Next, look at the table below:

1) Match the sentences/clauses together.

2) Rewrite the pairs you matched up using a semicolon.

For example: Florence sat with anyone that needed comforting; she read to them and helped them to write home.

Sentence 1Sentence 2
Florence founded modern nursingbut it helped Florence to learn even more skills.
Florence worked in a hospital in Londonyet she always checked on her patients at night (with the help of a lamp).
Infection killed lots of soldiersshe always wanted to be a healer.
She was often tired by the eveningFlorence realised that hygiene was important!
Nursing in the Crimean war was difficultand became head nurse within a year.

Top tips!

Remember, a semicolon should only be used to link together sentences that are related to each other.

In the example below, a semicolon has been used incorrectly because the two sentences are not directly related.

Florence healed lots of soldiers; she liked to eat fruit.

Activity 3

You can either print out this activity sheet or write your answers on a piece of paper.

Try this jigsaw to expand your semicolon knowledge!

Semicolon jigsaw worksheet

Where next?

In this lesson you have learnt about semicolons.

There are other useful articles on Bitesize to help you to understand more about punctuation:

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