Punctuation Exercises (Intermediate to Advanced)

Punctuation is the use of symbols in English sentences. These symbols include the period (.), question mark (?), exclaimation (!), comma (,), colon (:), semi-colon (;), apostrophe ('), quotation mark ("), dash (-), em-dash (), and parenthesis (()). Understanding how to properly punctuate sentences is essential for general, academic (EAP), and professional writing.

Feel free to review these pages before doing the exercises:

Many question marks atop eachother

Let the exercise begin. If no punctuation is needed, leave the blank option selected.

Intermediate Punctuation Exercises

  1. Although she was hungry she didn't want to eat.
  2. I don't know who did it
  3. My father loves cooking Tennis is my favorite hobby.
  4. Barack Obama was born in 
  5. Let's go out for dinner, shall we
  6. In the car  she finished the rest of her homework.
  7. I ordered some pizza  a glass of wine.

  

Explanations
  1. When the dependent (subordinate) clause starts a sentence, put a comma at the end of the clause (before the independent clause begins). Read this for help with clauses.
  2. The sentence begins with "I", so this is a statement.
  3. These are two independent clauses. Put a period between them. You should not use a semi-colon here as the sentences are not closely related in topic.
  4. Use a comma between a city and a country's name.
  5. Use a question mark at the end of a tag question.
  6. "In the car on the way to school" is a prepositional phrase. You should put a comma after it so the reader can clearly see that "she" is the subject of the sentence.
  7. Don't use a comma when a list only has two items.

Upper-Intermediate Punctuation Exercises - Group 1

  1. The dog ran outside Then it started barking.
  2. He won a million dollars. In other words, he won 
  3. The boy shouted, "I want some ice cream
  4. The phone rang while I was eating.
  5. "This is the best day of my life said Jim.
  6. You can eat there however, I wouldn't recommend it.

  

Explanations
  1. These are two independent clauses. You cannot join them with a comma (doing so would create a comma splice). To join them, you'd need a conjunction like "and". Because there is no conjunction, the clauses should remain separate with a period.
  2. $1,000,000.
  3. At the end of a sentence, put the final punctuation mark (an exclamation mark here) before the final quotation mark.
  4. Do not use any punctuation here because the dependent clause ("while I was eating.") is at the end of the sentence.
  5. Keep the punctuation inside the quotation mark.
  6. You must use a semi-colon here. There is no conjunction ("however" is an adverb) so you cannot use a comma here (if you do, you create a comma splice). You cannot use a period because "however" is not capitalized.

Upper-Intermediate Punctuation Exercises - Group 2

Note: Select the blank option if no punctuation is needed.

  1. Please bring the following items a hat, sunscreen, a bathing suit, and a towel.
  2. She ordered a pizza, chicken wings, and a salad.
  3. Ottawa is in the province of Ontario.
  4. We went to Chris apartment and then to my parents house.
  5. My mother is a 
  6. Brian picked me up in his car and then we drove to the beach.
  7.  was a day I'll never forget.
  8. She's coming to the meetingI think.

  

Explanations
  1. Use a colon after a complete sentence ("Please bring the following items" is an independent clause) to introduce a list. Help here.
  2. Do not use any punctuation here. You cannot use a colon because "She ordered" is not a complete sentence. Do not put any punctuation between a verb and its object(s).
  3. The phrase "the capital of Canada" is extra information. Use commas, parentheses, or em-dashes to introduce extra information. Help here.
  4. "Chris" is a singular noun, so add an apostrophe + s to it to change it into possessive form. "Parents" is a plural noun ending in 's', so only add an apostrophe to it to change it to possessive form.
  5. The phrase "63 years old" becomes an adjective to describe the noun "woman", so it must be changed to singular form (years > year) and hyphenated.
  6. The phrase 'an old Volkswagen' is extra information describing the car. Use commas, parentheses, or em-dashes to add extra information.
  7. Using the month-date-year format, a comma is required after the year.
  8. Ellipses have three periods, and no spaces before or after.

Advanced Punctuation Exercises

  1. My coach was rightI wasn't prepared which is why I didn't do well.
  2. Expert Joanne Smith explains the cause of the problem Many people are too lazy to recycle.
  3. The website  was created in 2011.
  4. "I don't know whyI cannot find a satisfying job."
  5. The bookdoes not discuss social media.
  6. The countries we visited had delicious restaurants.
  7. The company plans to expand to three countries:
  8. My pet lizard enjoys sleeping.  favorite hobby.

  

Explanations
  1. You can use a colon or em-dash here to introduce the reason why your coach was right. You should not use a comma because "I wasn't prepared" is not extra information; rather, it provides the reason why you believe your coach was right. At the end of the sentence, use a comma before 'which' to introduce a non-defining adjective clause.
  2. After a complete sentence, use a colon to introduce an explanation/reason for the previous sentence. Note that the sentence after the colon can either begin with a capital letter because it also is a complete sentence.
  3. No punctuation is required because the clause is a defining adjective clause.
  4. Again, keep the punctuation within the quotation mark.
  5. This is a good example of the use of an em-dash to emphasize extra information. If you use an em-dash in the middle of a sentence, you need to use one at the beginning of the clause and one at the end.
  6. These countries are extra information in the sentence, so they are offset by commas.
  7. When a list already contains commas, a semi-colon can be used to help avoid confusion.
  8. It is = "It's". Then use "its" to indicate possessive.

Did you find a mistake? Do you have a question? Leave a comment below.

- Exercises created by Matthew Barton (copyright) of EnglishCurrent.com

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