GED Language Arts (RLA) : Semi-Colons

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GED Language Arts (RLA)

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Example Questions

Example Question #69 : Language Usage And Grammar

Dear Congressman Phillips,

I urge you to reconsider your closure of the shipyard. I'm a medical practitioner in the area, so I meet many of the men and women employed by the facility. Many of these people are living paycheck to paycheck, unable to afford regular medical care; any gap in their employment could be devastating. If you must see it economically, consider the tremendous cost to the taxpayers when these people must rely on public programs for assistance. I ask you to please keep this shipyard open.

Very truly yours, . . .

What does the semicolon, in bold, do for this sentence?

Possible Answers:

Joins two incomplete thoughts

Joins two independent clauses into one complex sentence

Begins a dependent clause

Makes the writer look smart

Ends the sentence

Correct answer:

Joins two independent clauses into one complex sentence

Explanation:

A semicolon is used to separate two independent clauses. If the part of the sentence after the semicolon was a dependent clause, it would be a comma instead

Example Question #1 : Semi Colons

Passage adapted from “About Love” by Anton Chekhov (1898)

At lunch the next day there were very nice pies, crayfish, and mutton cutlets; and while we were eating, Nikanor, the cook, came up to ask what the visitors would like for dinner. He was a man of medium height, with a puffy face and little eyes; he was close-shaven, and it looked as though his moustaches had not been shaved, but had been pulled out by the roots. Alehin told us that the beautiful Pelagea was in love with this cook. As he drank and was of a violent character, she did not want to marry him, but was willing to live with him without. He was very devout, and his religious convictions would not allow him to “live in sin”; he insisted on her marrying him, and would consent to nothing else, and when he was drunk he used to abuse her and even beat her. Whenever he got drunk she used to hide upstairs and sob, and on such occasions Alehin and the servants stayed in the house to be ready to defend her in case of necessity.

How could the first sentence in the passage be changed while preserving its meaning?

Possible Answers:

At lunch, the next day there were very nice pies, crayfish, and mutton cutlets and while we were eating, Nikanor, the cook, came up to ask, what the visitors would like, for dinner.

None of these

At lunch the next day there were very nice pies crayfish and mutton cutlets: and while we were eating, Nikanor, the cook came up to ask what the visitors would like for dinner.

At lunch the next day there were very nice pies, crayfish, and mutton cutlets. While we were eating, Nikanor, the cook, came up to ask what the visitors would like for dinner.

At lunch the next day there were very nice pies, crayfish, and mutton cutlets; and while we were eating; Nikanor, the cook; came up to ask what the visitors would like for dinner.

Correct answer:

At lunch the next day there were very nice pies, crayfish, and mutton cutlets. While we were eating, Nikanor, the cook, came up to ask what the visitors would like for dinner.

Explanation:

A semi-colon connects two complete sentences together, more like a period than a comma. Therefore, a period is the only appropriate conjunction which can be used in its place. Any of the other given punctuation would result in a run-on sentence. A comma paired with an appropriate coordinating conjunction would also work in the same manner.

Example Question #22 : Punctuation

Passage adapted from The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1890)

In England, there was scarcely an amount of order and protection to justify much national boasting. Daring burglaries by armed men, and highway robberies, took place in the capital itself every night; families were publicly cautioned not to go out of town without removing their furniture to upholsterers' warehouses for security; the highwayman in the dark was a City tradesman in the light, and, being recognised and challenged by his fellow-tradesman whom he stopped in his character of "the Captain," gallantly shot him through the head and rode away; the mail was waylaid by seven robbers, and the guard shot three dead, and then got shot dead himself by the other four, "in consequence of the failure of his ammunition:" after which the mail was robbed in peace; that magnificent potentate, the Lord Mayor of London, was made to stand and deliver on Turnham Green, by one highwayman, who despoiled the illustrious creature in sight of all his retinue; prisoners in London gaols fought battles with their turnkeys, and the majesty of the law fired blunderbusses in among them, loaded with rounds of shot and ball; thieves snipped off diamond crosses from the necks of noble lords at Court drawing-rooms; musketeers went into St. Giles's, to search for contraband goods, and the mob fired on the musketeers, and the musketeers fired on the mob, and nobody thought any of these occurrences much out of the common way. In the midst of them, the hangman, ever busy and ever worse than useless, was in constant requisition; now, stringing up long rows of miscellaneous criminals; now, hanging a housebreaker on Saturday who had been taken on Tuesday; now, burning people in the hand at Newgate by the dozen, and now burning pamphlets at the door of Westminster Hall; to-day, taking the life of an atrocious murderer, and to-morrow of a wretched pilferer who had robbed a farmer's boy of sixpence.

Correct the bolded and underlined section of the text.

Possible Answers:

every night families were publicly 

every night but families were publicly 

every night; families were publicly 

every night, families were publicly 

every night; and families were publicly 

Correct answer:

every night; families were publicly 

Explanation:

When a sentence contains two independent clauses it requires either a conjunction with a comma or a semicolon and no conjunction. An independent clause is a clause in a sentence that can stand alone as a sentence. The above options do not contain a conjunction and a comma so a semicolon without a conjunction is the only correct answer. 

Example Question #2 : Semi Colons

Passage adapted from The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1890)

The passenger booked by this history, was on the coach-step, getting in; the two other passengers were close behind him, and about to follow. He remained on the step, half in the coach and half out of; they remained in the road below him. They all looked from the coachman to the guard, and from the guard to the coachman, and listened. The coachman looked back and the guard looked back, and even the emphatic leader pricked up his ears and looked back, without contradicting.

The stillness consequent on the cessation of the rumbling and labouring of the coach, added to the stillness of the night, made it very quiet indeed. The panting of the horses communicated a tremulous motion to the coach; as if it were in a state of agitation. The hearts of the passengers beat loud enough perhaps to be heard; but at any rate, the quiet pause was audibly expressive of people out of breath, and holding the breath, and having the pulses quickened by expectation.

The sound of a horse at a gallop came fast and furiously up the hill.

"So-ho!" the guard sang out, as loud as he could roar. "Yo there! Stand! I shall fire!"

The pace was suddenly checked, and, with much splashing and floundering, a man's voice called from the mist, "Is that the Dover mail?"

"Never you mind what it is!" the guard retorted. "What are you?"

"Is that the Dover mail?"

"Why do you want to know?"

"I want a passenger, if it is."

"What passenger?"

"Mr. Jarvis Lorry."

Our booked passenger showed in a moment that it was his name. The guard, the coachman, and the two other passengers eyed him distrustfully.

"Keep where you are," the guard called to the voice in the mist, "because, if I should make a mistake, it could never be set right in your lifetime. Gentleman of the name of Lorry answer straight."

"What is the matter?" asked the passenger, then, with mildly quavering speech. "Who wants me? Is it Jerry?"

("I don't like Jerry's voice, if it is Jerry," growled the guard to himself. "He's hoarser than suits me, is Jerry.")

"Yes, Mr. Lorry."

"What is the matter?

Correct the bolded and underlined sentence.

Possible Answers:

The panting of the horses communicated a tremulous motion to the coach, as if it were in a state of agitation.

The panting of the horses communicated a tremulous motion to the coach as if it were in a state of agitation.

The panting of the horses communicated a tremulous motion to the coach, and as if it were in a state of agitation.

The panting of the horses communicated a tremulous motion to the coach; as if it were in a state of agitation.

The panting of the horses communicated; a tremulous motion to the coach, as if it were in a state of agitation.

Correct answer:

The panting of the horses communicated a tremulous motion to the coach, as if it were in a state of agitation.

Explanation:

There needs to be a comma after "coach" because "as if it were in a state of agitation" is not an independent clause. A semicolon cannot be used because there are not two independent clauses. For the same reason a comma and an "and" cannot be used together in this situation.

Example Question #73 : Language Usage And Grammar

In this popular car ad a pony stands against a rural prairie backdrop. He is flashing a set of gold teeth. Dark, clouds overhead indicate the arrival of a rainstorm. In the top right hand corner of the ad, the tagline reads: “Now in the Prairies. The urban-inspired, 2009 Forota Hattrick.” Created for the Canadian Prairie Forota Dealers organization by an advertising firm; this ad is one in a series of three, each of which feature farm animals sporting so-called “urban-inspired” accessories: a pony with a grill, a sheep with an afro pick, and a cow with a Band-Aid under his left eye (reminiscent of the one once regularly worn by rapper Nelly).

The urban pony ad has a dark color scheme that is more muted then saturated. The dark background emphasizes the sparkle bouncing off the pony’s grill. There’s also a strong contrast between the images’ foreground and background. While the environment is hazy and its details soft, the pony is seen up close, a bright light source illuminating texture in the individual strands of its hair and the indentations in its gold teeth. Overall, the image of the pony is highly stylized—particularly in contrast—with its visually subdued surroundings. The pony’s aestheticized or artificial qualities being at odds with its rural environment.

On the other hand, there are also visual cues indicating affinity between the animal and its surroundings. For example, the shape of its teeth are echoed in a faint yellow rectangular shape floating in the sky. The pattern of shadow and light mottling the pony’s cheek bones also mimics the pattern of dark and light in the gathering storm clouds. This might suggest that the animal is being allies with its natural, prairie setting. The storm, however, contains its own ambiguity: though it is a part of nature, it can also be read as foreboding symbol signally the arrival of the urban-inspired car. These visual details serve to simultaneously place the pony within and alienate it from its surroundings. 

Select the answer that best corrects the underlined portion of the sentence. 

Possible Answers:

Created for the Canadian, Prairie Forota Dealers organization by an advertising firm; this ad is one in a series of three

Created for the Canadian Prairie Forota Dealers organization by an advertising firm this ad is one in a series of three; 

Created for the Canadian Prairie Forota Dealers organization, by an advertising firm, this ad is one in a series of three

Created for the Canadian Prairie Forota Dealers organization by an advertising firm, this ad is one in a series of three

The sentence contains no error

Correct answer:

Created for the Canadian Prairie Forota Dealers organization by an advertising firm, this ad is one in a series of three

Explanation:

"Created for the Canadian Prairie Forota Dealers organization by an advertising firm" is a participle phrase modifying "this ad." Because it appears before the noun it modifies, it needs to be offset by a comma. A semicolon doesn't work here because the it is a phrase, not an independent clause. With only one exception (when separating items in a list that contain internal punctuation), semicolons are always used to separate two clauses that could stand on their own as complete sentences. 

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