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Use Semi-Colons Correctly 1

In this worksheet, students practise using semi-colons to separate items in a list.

'Use Semi-Colons Correctly 1' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 2

Curriculum topic:   Writing: Vocabulary, Grammar and Punctuation

Curriculum subtopic:   Punctuate Independent Clauses

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

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

 

A semi-colon 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.

 

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

 

Just to make it a bit more confusing, unfortunately, there is not always a set rule for when to use semi-colons in a list. Sometimes either semi-colons 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 tips for using semi-colons:

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

Read the following sentences and decide which one is correctly punctuated.

 

1) I went to four cities on my trip: Paris, France, Madrid, Spain, Milan, Italy, and Hamburg, Germany.

 

2) I went to four cities on my trip: Paris, France; Madrid, Spain; Milan, Italy; and Hamburg, Germany.

Sentence 1

Sentence 2

Both are correct

Read the following sentences and decide which one is correctly punctuated.

 

1) Police searching for the missing man found a bag containing his clothes, a case full of documents, a camera with a broken lens and an empty wallet.

 

2) Police searching for the missing man found a bag containing his clothes; a case full of documents; a camera with a broken lens; and an empty wallet.

Only sentence 1 is correct

Only sentence 2 is correct

Both are correct

Read the following sentences and decide which one is correctly punctuated.

 

1) At the circus we saw acrobats; tightrope walkers; jugglers; and clowns.

 

2) At the circus we saw acrobats, tightrope walkers, jugglers and clowns.

Only sentence 1 is correct

Only sentence 2 is correct

Both are correct

Avneet has written the following sentence, has she punctuated it correctly?

 

1) The hotel had everything we needed: a large swimming pool; a restaurant serving delicious food; a games room for the children; and an indoor gym.

Yes

No

Verity does thinks the sentence below is INCORRECT.  Is she right?

 

This week's magazine includes an interview with the club's top scorer; a feature on our new ground; a profile of our latest signing; and lots of special offers.

Yes

No

Read the following sentences and decide which one is correctly punctuated.

 

1) The menu included several dishes: roast beef and Yorkshire puddings, served with roast potatoes; battered cod, served with chips and peas; and chicken and ham pie, served with baked beans.

 

2) The menu included several dishes: roast beef and Yorkshire puddings, served with roast potatoes, battered cod, served with chips and peas and chicken and ham pie, served with baked beans.

Sentence 1

Sentence 2

Both are correct

How would you rewrite this sentence, punctuating the list correctly?

 

When I was in France we went to these places: Paris Nice Lyon and Toulouse.

When I was in France we went to these places: Paris, Nice, Lyon and Toulouse.

When I was in France we went to these places: Paris; Nice; Lyon and Toulouse.

Look at the sentences below.

 

Which one is correct?

At the fairground, I want to go on the roller coaster, the big wheel, the water flume and the waltzers.

At the fairground, I want to go on the roller coaster, the big wheel; the water flume and the waltzers.

How would you rewrite the sentence below, punctuating it correctly?

The United Kingdom has four capital cities: London, England; Edinburgh, Scotland; Cardiff, Wales; and Belfast Northern Ireland.

The United Kingdom has four capital cities: London, England, Edinburgh, Scotland, Cardiff, Wales, and Belfast Northern Ireland.

How would you rewrite this sentence, punctuating the list correctly?

 

The last time I saw Jenny she was wearing a bright red hat with a bobble a blue and white checked coat some green gloves and black boots.

The last time I saw Jenny she was wearing a bright red hat with a bobble, a blue and white checked coat, some green gloves and black boots.

The last time I saw Jenny she was wearing a bright, red hat with a bobble, a blue, and white checked coat, some green, gloves and black, boots.

The last time I saw Jenny, she was wearing a bright red hat with a bobble, a blue and white checked coat, some green gloves and black boots.

The last time I saw Jenny she was wearing; a bright red hat with a bobble, a blue and white checked coat, some green gloves and black boots.

  • Question 1

Read the following sentences and decide which one is correctly punctuated.

 

1) I went to four cities on my trip: Paris, France, Madrid, Spain, Milan, Italy, and Hamburg, Germany.

 

2) I went to four cities on my trip: Paris, France; Madrid, Spain; Milan, Italy; and Hamburg, Germany.

CORRECT ANSWER
Sentence 2
EDDIE SAYS
How did you get on with the first question? They look really similar but when you look carefully you will see there is quite a subtle difference. Can you see the semi-colons in the second sentence? The first sentence makes it look like there are eight different places instead of four. As the cities are from the countries that follow them it is helpful to use a semi-colon to show they are grouped together.
  • Question 2

Read the following sentences and decide which one is correctly punctuated.

 

1) Police searching for the missing man found a bag containing his clothes, a case full of documents, a camera with a broken lens and an empty wallet.

 

2) Police searching for the missing man found a bag containing his clothes; a case full of documents; a camera with a broken lens; and an empty wallet.

CORRECT ANSWER
Both are correct
EDDIE SAYS
What did you think this time? Sometimes there is more than one way to be correct. In this case, as the list includes more than single words you could use either commas or semi-colons. In this example, both sentences are easy to understand, so it is just a matter of choice.
  • Question 3

Read the following sentences and decide which one is correctly punctuated.

 

1) At the circus we saw acrobats; tightrope walkers; jugglers; and clowns.

 

2) At the circus we saw acrobats, tightrope walkers, jugglers and clowns.

CORRECT ANSWER
Only sentence 2 is correct
EDDIE SAYS
Hopefully, you spotted one of these sentences was not right? Remember when a list only contains singular words it's better to use commas, semi-colons aren't necessary.
  • Question 4

Avneet has written the following sentence, has she punctuated it correctly?

 

1) The hotel had everything we needed: a large swimming pool; a restaurant serving delicious food; a games room for the children; and an indoor gym.

CORRECT ANSWER
Yes
EDDIE SAYS
What did you think this time? As the items in the list are made up of multiple words she is correct to use a semi-colon to break them up. However, in this case, she could also have used just commas. Remember there is no strict rule as to when to use commas or semi-colons. As long as the phrases are grouped together and separated by either a semi-colon or comma it will be correct.
  • Question 5

Verity does thinks the sentence below is INCORRECT.  Is she right?

 

This week's magazine includes an interview with the club's top scorer; a feature on our new ground; a profile of our latest signing; and lots of special offers.

CORRECT ANSWER
No
EDDIE SAYS
Unfortunately for Verity, she has not quite grasped this! The sentence is correct as the items in the list are groups of words, so it is absolutely fine to break these up with semicolons, to show the items are separate to one another.
  • Question 6

Read the following sentences and decide which one is correctly punctuated.

 

1) The menu included several dishes: roast beef and Yorkshire puddings, served with roast potatoes; battered cod, served with chips and peas; and chicken and ham pie, served with baked beans.

 

2) The menu included several dishes: roast beef and Yorkshire puddings, served with roast potatoes, battered cod, served with chips and peas and chicken and ham pie, served with baked beans.

CORRECT ANSWER
Sentence 1
EDDIE SAYS
Are you getting the hang of this now? We need to use semi-colons here because the items on the list already contain commas. The second sentence is unclear compared to how the first sentence reads.
  • Question 7

How would you rewrite this sentence, punctuating the list correctly?

 

When I was in France we went to these places: Paris Nice Lyon and Toulouse.

CORRECT ANSWER
When I was in France we went to these places: Paris, Nice, Lyon and Toulouse.
EDDIE SAYS
As this list only contains short words we only need to use commas. Don't forget your capital letters!
  • Question 8

Look at the sentences below.

 

Which one is correct?

CORRECT ANSWER
At the fairground, I want to go on the roller coaster, the big wheel, the water flume and the waltzers.
EDDIE SAYS
Did you see that sneaky semi-colon in the middle of the second sentence? Try reading it as it's punctuated and you will see why there is an issue with it! If you begin with semi-colons then you must continue with them throughout the list.
  • Question 9

How would you rewrite the sentence below, punctuating it correctly?

CORRECT ANSWER
The United Kingdom has four capital cities: London, England; Edinburgh, Scotland; Cardiff, Wales; and Belfast Northern Ireland.
EDDIE SAYS
How did you do with this last one? This list needs commas between the cities and the countries, but semi-colons to separate the four places. Otherwise, it looks like 8 different places have been visited! The correct sentence should read: The United Kingdom has four capital cities: London, England; Edinburgh, Scotland; Cardiff, Wales; and Belfast, Northern Ireland. Great work, that's another activity achieved! Let's keep going while we are on a roll!
  • Question 10

How would you rewrite this sentence, punctuating the list correctly?

 

The last time I saw Jenny she was wearing a bright red hat with a bobble a blue and white checked coat some green gloves and black boots.

CORRECT ANSWER
The last time I saw Jenny she was wearing a bright red hat with a bobble, a blue and white checked coat, some green gloves and black boots.
EDDIE SAYS
How did you find this final question? Option 1 is correct. Alternatively, you could use semi-colons in place of commas when writing sentences like this with an extensive list.
---- OR ----

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