This Wikipedia page on semicolon has a special paragraph for French. But in my reading of it, the French use seems to be the identical to the use in English. I do not understand the distinction being made specifically for the French language.


In French, a semicolon is a separation between two full sentences, used where either a colon or a comma would not be appropriate. The phrase following a semicolon has to be an independent clause, which is related to the previous one (but not explaining it, contrary to a sentence introduced by a colon).

The dash character is used in French writing too, but not as widely as the semicolon. Usage of these devices (semicolon and dash) varies from author to author.

➠ How is the use of semicolon in French different than in English?

  • I find Wikipedia sometimes has sections specific to one variation that don't imply a contradiction with other variations, but are just there for exhaustiveness. That said, I don't want to suggest that this isn't an interesting question. – Luke Sawczak Nov 4 '17 at 16:38

It's more like it's the only usage of it. Some usages of semicolons in English, such as to separate items in an enumeration that have commas themselves, isn't common in French. Take this example from the Wikipedia page:

The people present were Jamie, a man from New Zealand; John, the milkman's son; and George, a gaunt kind of man with no friends.

In French this enumeration would more commonly use parentheses instead of commas, and commas instead of semicolons; or just commas all around if the context is clear enough:

Les personnes présentes étaient Jamie (un homme de Nouvelle-Zélande), John (le fils du laitier), et George, un maigrelet qui n'avait pas d'ami.

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