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Use Semicolons in a List

In this worksheet, students will practise using semicolons to separate items in a list.

'Use Semicolons in a List' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 2

Year:  Year 6 English worksheets

Curriculum topic:   Writing: Vocabulary, Grammar and Punctuation

Curriculum subtopic:   Punctuate Independent Clauses

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

In this activity, we're going to be looking at when to use the semicolon, so that we punctuate correctly!


A semicolon can be used instead of a comma to separate items in a list if the list is made up of phrases rather than single words, especially if the phrases already contain commas.


For example:

I need a big bag of bananas, not too green; a tin of tomatoes, preferably Italian ones; a large box of chocolates; a two-pint carton of milk; and some grapes.


If the list consists only of short words, then a comma is used.

I need bananas, chocolates, milk and grapes.


shopping trolley


For lists with commas, we don't usually use a comma before the final item, but for lists with semicolons it is more common (but not essential) to put a semicolon in before the final item. 


Just to make it a bit more confusing, unfortunately, there is not always a set rule for when to use semicolons in a list. Sometimes either semicolons or commas will work.


Both of the following sentences are correct:


At the zoo we saw several different animals: black and white zebras, colourful parrots, rhinos with long horns and shy gazelles.

At the zoo we saw several different animals: black and white zebras; colourful parrots; rhinos with long horns; and shy gazelles.




Our top tip for using semicolons:

When deciding whether or not to use semicolons in a list, try using commas first and checking if the sentence makes sense that way. If it is confusing with commas, use semicolons instead!


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