Optional Semicolons

Like sentences in English language, a complete meaningful line in JavaScript is called a statement. Just like periods separate sentences, semicolons(;) separate statements in JavaScript.

const a = 10; console.log(a);

We normally write one statement per line as shown below:

const a = 10;

Optional Semicolons

When we write one statement per line, we can omit the semicolon if we want.

const a = 10

JavaScript will automatically figure out the statments based on the rules of the language.

Figuring out Statements

Consider the below code:

let age = 20;

Will the above code work? Yes. JavaScript usually treats line breaks as semicolons only if it can't parse the code without adding an implicit semicolon.

In the above code, JavaScript starts grouping from first line as if each line is a piece of lego.

let age
let age =
let age = 20
let age = 20 console

So here is how the parser thinks:

It takes the first word let and asks, "Can let and age come together?". The answer is "yes". Like wise, it keeps on adding the blocks.

"Can let, age and = come together?" Yes!

"Can let, age, = and 20 come together?" Yes!

"Can let, age, =, 20 and console come together?" No!. If it is a No, JavaScript automatically inserts a semicolon between 20 and console.

This is how JavaScript figure out different statements.

Here is a tricky code snippet:

let b = 10
let a = b

What is the output for above code?

You might expect the value '10' as output. But, you might face the error ReferenceError: Cannot access 'a' before initialization. It is because, JavaScript treated above code as:

let b = 10;
let a = b(a).toString();

As a best practice, it is always good to put semicolons in the code.

There are three exceptions to this semicolon insertion rule.

First Exception

What is the output of below code?

function fun() {

We expect the output to be 6 because return 6 forms a valid statement. But JavaScript returns from the function as soon as it sees the return keyword. Therefore the output will be undefined.

This special type of working is not only for return. throw, yield, break and continue also work like this. If there is continuation for these keywords, ensure that there is no line break in between.

Second Exception

What is the output of below code?

let a = 10

Your guess might be 10 and 11. Instead, above code prints 10 and 10. Unary increment(++) and decrement(--) operators do not work as expected without semicolons. Always the unary operator(++) and the operand(a) should be in the same line.

Third Exception

Arrow functions which were introduced in ES6, needs to be in the same line.


Above code throws SyntaxError: Unexpected token '=>' error. Instead if we edit the above code, just to keep the arrow function in the same line, things will start working. Here is the updated code:

() => 10

Above code prints 10 in the console.

Last updated on 27 Sep, 2022
Joby Joseph
Web Architect