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I just read a sentence that goes like this:

I have woven the grief of your departure into amulets; to wear around my neck, until they dissolve into my skin.

So far I have learnt that semicolons can be used to join two independent clauses, but using it up there before to seems confusing because we could leave out the semicolon up there and it would still be meaningful.

Why was it used this way here?

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  • Where did you find that sentence? Google has no record of it. The answer to your question "Why?" is "We cannot even guess without knowing something of the source. Normally it's wrong and better omitted entirely." However certain specialised forms do use semicolons in that fashion.
    – Andrew Leach
    Nov 15, 2020 at 12:59
  • So in certain specialised forms we can use semicolons before infinitives? For example: I have been there; to see you. Nov 15, 2020 at 13:07
  • Please answer the question I asked. The specialised forms are very, very, very specialised.
    – Andrew Leach
    Nov 15, 2020 at 13:20
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    There is no rule about 'semicolon infinitive' use. The example "to see you" serves as a bad example of using a semicolon. Your original sentence uses the semi oddly, where a colon, comma, em bar, or nothing would be expected. The writer wanted a pause; okay then. Nov 15, 2020 at 13:26
  • It was written on a picture, that's why it's not on internet and you can't find it out. What do you mean by very, very, very? Nov 15, 2020 at 13:27

2 Answers 2

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It's stylistic.

The semi-colon is used for independent clauses that are on the same idea; it also introduces a pause in the sentence.

Thus, the writer wants to separate this single thought whilst still linking them and introducing a pause between them. This also emphasises the clauses. Contrast with:

This is how he did it. There. And then. Full-stop.

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The primary function of a semicolon is to connect two ideas that hold equal weight. By using a semicolon in the referenced sentence, the writer is adding more weight to "to wear around my neck, until they dissolve into my skin." Grammatically, it's strange to give that phrase more weight since it is not an independent clause--or even a dependent one. Moreover, classically, semicolons are not used in that fashion. Stylistically, however, writers often break conventional grammar rules.

As previously stated, here the rule is broken to add more weight to the phrase that comes after the semicolon--to draw more attention to it. Additionally, the semicolon adds a pause in the reading of the sentence. The pause adds more drama.

The writer breaks another conventional rule by placing a comma between "to wear around my neck" and "until they dissolve into my skin."

But again, writers tend to break the rules we learn so devoutly in school. It really boils down to a matter of philosophy: Does grammar rule over writing, or does writing rule over grammar? And is every grammar rule equally necessary to follow? Who determines the answer to these questions? The reader? The writer? The majority?

IDK man.

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  • Grammar is about syntax and morphology, not about writing. If you cannot hear it, only see it written, then it is not grammar.
    – tchrist
    Nov 16, 2020 at 3:22

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