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
  • independet clauses

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.

Independent Clauses

Colons can be used to seperate two independent clasues, these are clauses that can stand alone by themselves. Remember that you can use the colons only to join two independent clauses and not more, also the first letter after the colon shouln not be capitalize.

Never forget my first rule: new is always better.

The world is a stage: play your role well.

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 Semicolon in a sentence

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.

In Lists

We could use semicolon in lists when the comma alone would be confusing. let's see in examples:

so far I've visited Dallas, Texas; Manhattan , Newyork; and Akron, Ohio.

You can get a pizza with bacon, cheese and corns; ham, cheese and pepper; or vegetables and cheese.

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.


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