Semi-colons: silver ants

2 - The Grammar Bit

The Grammar Bit!

Read the three scintillating sentences opposite. You’ll notice that each sentence consists of two main clauses that have been joined with a semi-colon (;). Remember – a main clause (sometimes called an independent clause) usually contains a subject and a verb and must make sense on its own. 

A semi-colon is used when the statement made in the second clause is closely related to the first. It would, of course, be possible to write two separate sentences demarcated by a full stop. e.g. The blistering sun was proving deadly. The silver ants made a quick retreat. Alternatively, you could use a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) to join the two clauses. e.g. The blistering sun was proving deadly so the silver ants made a quick retreat.  However, there is a subtle difference; the semi-colon establishes a link between the two clauses, but the readers must work out for themselves the exact nature of this link.

With your talk partner, discuss the effect of the semi-colon in each of the sentences opposite.

Factoid: JK Rowling is perhaps the most famous children’s author who uses semi-colons frequently in her writing. Some would say that using them effectively is the mark of a very sophisticated writer.

Scintillating Sentences

1) The blistering sun was proving deadly; the silver ants made a quick retreat.

2) Silver ants scavenge on those that have frazzled in the midday heat; they have no need to hunt other insects.

3) The silver ants were able to move across the desert at lightning speed; long legs were the key to their rapid locomotion.

Did you know?

Ants don’t have ears. Instead, they ‘hear’ by feeling vibrations in the ground through their feet.