Grammar 9


Patterns with Semicolons

You can use a semicolon whenever you want to splice two clauses together.

Semicolons are versatile; you can use them just about anywhere; personally, I love them!

Here are some patterns that work especially well with semicolons.


Semicolons are great for showing contrast. Study these examples:

  • I like coffee; my wife likes tea.
  • John went to New York; Linda went to Paris.
  • Hawaii is hot; Canada is cold.
  • My room is tidy; my sister's room is a mess.
  • Rabbits are fast; turtles are slow.



Here is another useful pattern:

  • Jill is mean; she always makes fun of everyone.
  • Carlos is nice; he always shares his snacks with his little sister.

In each of these sentences, the second clause explains the first clause. (It gives you an example Jill being mean or Carlos being nice).

Now study these examples:

  • Gold is malleable; it is easy to work with and can be hammered into very thin sheets.
  • A love of opera is an acquired taste; almost nobody likes it the first time he or she hears it.

In each of these sentences, the author has used a difficult word or concept in the first clause. (Not everyone understands what "malleable" means, or the meaning of "acquired taste.") So, just to be sure that we all understand—the author has been kind enough to explain what she means in the second clause.

If you take a close look at our Vocab List, you will notice that many of the example sentences follow this pattern. The author uses the new word in the first clause, then illustrates or explains the word in the second clause.

This is a very useful pattern when you want to use fancy words in your writing, but you also want to make sure that your reader understands what you're saying.

Instructions for Quiz

For each sentence on the quiz, decide which pattern is being used: