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I've just learned today that one should use a capital letter after a colon in German if the second part of the sentence could be separated to make a sentence alone.

z. B.

Ich habe Hunger: Ich habe heute noch nichts gegessen

(I'm guessing if I added nämlich to the second part, using a capital letter would be more controversial.)

Does this rule apply to semicolons too?

Ich habe nichts gegessen; ich habe Hunger.

or

Ich habe nichts gegessen; Ich habe Hunger.

I remember a literature teacher who would tell us that the partial disappearance of the semi-colon in writing was a shame, as it was a good balance between a comma which would bring a too weak separation and a full stop (period) which would be too much.

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PS: Mahlzeit to everyone, I'm realizing my example are well chosen on a timely point of view! –  Pierre Arlaud Jul 30 at 9:58
    
Ha... indeed :). I don't know the rules for these cases but I would much prefer the non-capitalized version. Besides, I would not recommend using constructions like these at all. The semi-colon is pretty superfluous in German, and it trips me up when reading out loud. What am I supposed to think? Does the sentence end? Does it not end? What is that semi-colon trying to tell me? There is no need for something between a comma and a full stop, imho –  Emanuel Jul 30 at 10:05
    
@Emanuel how is that different from the use of semicolon in English or French? It's the same problem everywhere, it doesn't mean we should eradicate this punctuation for this reason alone. –  Pierre Arlaud Jul 30 at 11:58
1  
Indeed not. I quite like and use them regularly, even though some people (authors, even) beg to differ: Kurt Vonnegut famously stated that semicolons represent absolutely nothing. All they do is show you've been to college. Ah, well. –  Ingmar Jul 30 at 12:03
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The semicolon is part of the German interpunction, and it is still being used; so why not use it too? See german.stackexchange.com/questions/1733/… –  Takkat Jul 30 at 17:58

1 Answer 1

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Even if the phrase following a semicolon is a full sentence, the first (next) word is only capitalized if it would be on its own (because it's a name or a noun, say).

To answer your question, #1 is correct. Duden gives the following examples:

Man kann nicht jede Frage nur mit Ja oder Nein beantworten; oft muss man etwas weiter ausholen. (Hier könnte statt des Semikolons auch ein Punkt oder ein Komma stehen.)

Unser Proviant bestand aus gedörrtem Fleisch, Speck und Rauchschinken; Ei- und Milchpulver; Reis, Nudeln und Grieß. (Hier könnten statt der Semikolons auch Kommas stehen.)

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I had a German correct me with a capital letter, and I thought the same way as you (and Duden for that matter!) –  Pierre Arlaud Jul 30 at 11:57

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