If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

Introduction to the semicolon

Paige introduces a piece of punctuation called the semicolon; this punctuation can link closely related independent clauses together in a sentence.  Created by David Rheinstrom.

Want to join the conversation?

  • primosaur ultimate style avatar for user Ibrahim Dar
    so its basically the "semicolon" is used is link two sentences but those sentences can stand on their own.
    example
    I hate peanut butter; I'm allergic to peanut butter
    I'm, not really :)
    (14 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Ketchup!
      You are grammatically correct. But I think you should not use a semicolon in this case. It would sound better, differentiated. But if you want to use the comma, you should write it this way: I hate peanut butter; I am allergic to it. Without the semicolon, you could write it like this: I hate peanut butter, for I am allergic to it. Or in this way: I hate peanut butter because I am allergic to it.
      (6 votes)
  • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Radhika Kattula
    Are you supposed to capitalize the first word after the semicolon, or do you leave it lowercased? Does it even matter?
    (11 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • piceratops tree style avatar for user Mahda Soltani
    When connecting two independent clauses, is it better to choose semicolon or colon?
    For example, in the following sentence, Spain is a beautiful country (?) the beaches are warm, sandy and spotlessly clean. should I choose semicolon or a colon?
    (4 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • leaf grey style avatar for user Academic Ninja
      You should use the semicolon. This is because semicolons are mainly used to link to closely related ideas that can stand on their own as individual senteces. (independent clauses). So the correct sentence would be:

      Spain is a beautiful country; the beaches are warm, sandy, and spotlessly clean.

      Hope that helps!
      Eric M.
      (13 votes)
  • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Howie Quillen
    Can't we just use commas. Why is English so confusing?
    (5 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • aqualine tree style avatar for user David Alexander
      Commas are the most useful punctuation mark. But sometimes you need something more powerful, and other times something even MORE powerful. That's why there are semicolons and colons.
      It's kind of like in church. Singing to a guitar is nice, but some songs really require a piano, and at other times, we need to be blasted with a pipe organ.
      (5 votes)
  • sneak peak purple style avatar for user Sahitya.thokala
    Can't we use a comma instead of a semicolon?
    (3 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Hecretary Bird
      Commas and semicolons are very similar, but each have their own functions. I like to think of the semicolon as the "big brother" of the comma. Whereas a comma can stitch together a dependent clause and an independent clause, a semicolon can connect two independent clauses. Semicolons are also used to separate items within a list, when the items themselves have commas in them.
      Hope this helped!
      (7 votes)
  • male robot hal style avatar for user Radko Krutošík🧑🏻
    what is a difference beetwen colen and semecolen🤔🤨
    (3 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • female robot ada style avatar for user Paikelei
      Hi! The differences between a colon ( : ) and a semicolon ( ; ) are that a colon is used to show time (), a list ( We need: … ), to separate two clauses ( … : … ), or to define something. A semicolon however, does not show time or makes a list, but it does separate two main clauses from each other ( … ; … ). I hope I helped you! ( I asked my mom this too! ) 🙂🙃🙂
      (3 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user Olivia
    Is this okay? I'm not allowed to get a pet; my mom said they smell.
    (2 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • female robot ada style avatar for user Paikelei
    I must add, why can’t we just use commas instead of semicolons? Because we could just add the conjunctions before and after. Then we wouldn’t have to use the semicolon, right? 🤔
    (2 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • aqualine tree style avatar for user David Alexander
      Consider the whole "commas, parentheses, dashes, semicolons, colons" thing as a question of strength. Each one of these has a certain amount of power to stop the flow of the language for the sake of clarity. A comma is most useful, but not terribly strong. A colon is awesomely powerful (it might even be able to stop a speeding freight train). Don't use a comma where a colon is needed ("never bring a knife to a gunfight"). Also, don't rely on a colon when all you need is a comma ("don't use a sledge hammer to kill gnats.").
      (3 votes)
  • marcimus orange style avatar for user AnitaJoy
    I'm not sure I get it, but maybe I did. Is this sentence correct?

    I hate hot sauce on my mac and cheese; I had a red hot tongue the last time I had it.
    I don't think this is correct, but I never really understood semicolons. So please tell me if i'm wrong or correct.
    (3 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • blobby green style avatar for user Myleigh Glass
    A semicolon is just used to link two sentences together, but the sentences can't be by itself?
    (2 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user

Video transcript

- [Voiceover] Hello, grammarians. In this video, I'm gonna tell you about a piece of punctuation called the semicolon, which basically looks like a comma with a period on top of it. The semicolon has a few uses, but, the basic sort of standard use is to link two closely related ideas, that can stand on their own as individual sentences. So that might sound a little weird, you think there's two individual sentences, so they just have a period in between them, why do they need to be linked? Well, let's look at an example, and I'll show you what I mean. I'm a big fan of roller coasters, but if I weren't I could say something like, I don't wanna ride the Mega Sky Coaster; I'm afraid of heights, and that ride sounds terrifying. Now you notice, we have a semicolon here in between these parts, but let's take a step back, and just put a period here for a second. So now we have, I don't wanna ride the Mega Sky Coaster. Period. I'm afraid of heights, and that ride sounds terrifying. Exclamation point. These can work on their own, as different sentences. But they're so closely tied together. You know, I say I don't want to ride the Mega Sky Coaster, it's sort of telling us the back story as to why I don't wanna ride it. So we can use a semicolon in this instance to sort of tie the two sentences together into one. Now we can't go around tying every sentence to each other, we can't have everything just connected with a whole bunch of semicolons, it works in this case because these clauses are sharing such similar information. In this sentence, the two clauses that are directly connected are both independent clauses. This makes sense, because the semicolons job is to connect things that can stand on their own as sentences, but, a sentence isn't always just an independent clause by itself. One example of this would be, I wanna get a pet turtle, semicolon, however, I think it might scare my baby brother. This is an independent clause, and so is this, but the however in between the two of them can make things a little bit confusing. That's why it's important to note that you can have a semicolon, followed by an introductory adverb, or a transitional phrase. It doesn't just have to be independent clause, semicolon, independent clause, period. You can have other clauses and phrases and words in there. As long as the things that you're linking together can stand on their own as individual sentences. There's another place we can use semicolons, which is in a complex list. In this case, it's called a super comma, but we're gonna get to that in another video. So for now, this is how you use a semicolon to link parts of a sentence. If the words to the left and the words to the right of the semicolon can stand as individual sentences with a period in between them, you can put a semicolon there instead. You can learn anything, Paige out.