Colons and Semicolons

Colons and semi-colons are used to make it easy for us to understand and read a passage. In this lesson, we will learn all about them.

Colons and Semicolons in English

What Is a Colon?

A colon is a punctuation mark (:). It is used in many different situations. Here we will learn all about it.

Why Do We Use a Colon?

We can use colons to introduce:

  • an emphasis
  • a dialogue
  • a list
  • a title

Using Colons for Emphasis

When you are using a colon to emphasize the noun after it, you should capitalize the first letter after the colon, only if the noun is a proper noun. Here are the example:

Her only love was: Marco Danio.

I only wanted to enter: the university.

Using a Colon to Express a Dialogue

A dialogue must follow the colon. No matter what, the statement after the colon has to be capitalized at the beginning. Here are the examples:

Marco: I am not going to leave you alone.

Sarah: Excuse me! Aren't you the guy who cheated on me?

Using a Colon to Name a List

When we want to name a set of things as a list, we have to use them following a colon. The first letter after the colon is not capitalized, unless there is a proper noun after the colon. Check out the examples:

We should buy: butter, cheese, milk, and sugar.

I invited: Sam, Alison, Ellen, and Pam.

Using a Colon in a Title

We can use a colon before the title but usually, the title is a proper noun that is capitalized at the beginning. Here are the examples:

She wrote: Harry Potter.

She played: Gia.

Other Uses

A colon can be used on the following occasions as well. The only difference is that these uses are less common. check the list:

  • using a colon to join the sentences
  • using a colon to express time

Using a Colon to Join the Sentences

Sometimes when the second sentence gives information or definition about the first sentence, we can use a colon after the first sentence and before the second sentence. Here are the examples:

She acted like an ocean: calm, deep, and cold.

We used the third formula: the one in which we would have a purple liquid.

Using a Colon to Express the Time

When it comes to time, colons are used with numbers to separate the units of time. Here are the examples:

04:52:32 → four hours and fifty-two minutes and thirty-two seconds


When Not to Use a Colon

There are some occasions in which you are not allowed to use a colon. For example:
when we are using an object for a verb or a complement for it we cannot use a colon between them. Here are the examples:

✗She is: wonderful.

✗ Sarah called: her mother as soon as she got to the station.

We cannot use a colon between a preposition and its object. Check these examples out:

✗ Do not put your weapon on the: table.

✗The books are above: the shelves.

When we are using words and phrases like such as, including, especially, and similar phrases, you should not use a colon. Here are the examples:

✗ We bought groceries such as: nuts, sweets, etc. ✓ We bought groceries such as nuts, sweets, etc.

✗ Do not use salty foods including: salt, salty nuts, etc. ✓ Do not use salty foods including salt, salty nuts, etc.

When we are using a direct speech or an indirect speech you should never use a colon. Here are the examples:

✗She said: "I am tired". ✓ She said, "I am tire." → direct speech

✗She said: she was tired. ✓ She said she was tired. → indirect speech

What Is a Semicolon?

A semicolon looks like a comma with a period above it. The punctuation is (;).

Why Do We Use a Semicolon?

Here is the use of semicolon in writing:

Using Semicolons to Join Sentences

We can use a semicolon to link two independent clauses. In this case, we can link two independent clauses which share similar ideas. Here are the examples:

She was still sick; she couldn't help sneezing.

We talked to the manager; he insisted on considering the new policies.

When two independent clauses are linked by a conjunction or an adverb, you can also use a semicolon before the conjunction or the adverb. Here are the examples:

We couldn't decide; however, she seemed determined.

They got caught; as a result, her mother raised the baby.

You can use a semicolon if there is coordinating conjunction linking two clauses preceded by a comma. Here are the examples:

He bought the sandwiches, drinks, and cookies; but he forgot to pick up the cake.

The cow is young, healthy and in a good condition; yet it had no milk.

When Not to Use a Semicolon

A semicolon cannot be used when there is a dependent clauses linking to a dependent or independent clause. In this case, we use a comma, not a semicolon. Here are the examples:

Since she was lost, her mother was worried sick.

Because of the wedding, we have spent so much money lately.


Colons (:) and semicolons (;) are both punctuation marks that are used on special occasions to make it easy for us to get the meaning.


Semicolons are widely used to:

  • link two independent clauses


Colons are used to express:

  1. an emphasis
  2. a dialogue
  3. a list
  4. a title


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