The em dash (—) and the en dash (–) in English! Learn how and when to use dashes with examples and ESL worksheets. The dash is one of the most important punctuation marks in the English language.
When to Use Dashes
Dashes are used to separate two words into statements.
It should be noted that dashes are almost never required by the rules of grammar and punctuation. There are two kinds of dashes, the en dash, and the em dash (long dash). The en dash is a symbol (–) that is slightly wider than a hyphen (-). The em dash (—) is twice as long as the en dash (–).
The en dash often shows range or connections. On the other hand, the em dash is usually used in places where a comma could also be used. The dash can also be used to mark off words or statements that are not important to the meaning of the statement. The dash can also be used in places where a comma would be typically used.
These events took place between 1990–1997 along the Paris-London route.
Only one solution was left — revenge!
When to Use Em Dash (—) with Examples
The em dash/ long dash (—) is different from en dash (–) and hyphen (-).
Twice as long as the en dash, the long dash can be used in place of a comma, parenthesis, or colon to enhance readability or emphasize the conclusion of a sentence.
1. The em dash is used to show a break in a sentence.
- We could not wait to meet them — we had missed them so much.
- Please call my supervisor — John Wick — on Friday.
These example sentences could also be written with parentheses or commas.
- We could not wait to meet them (we had missed them so much).
- Please call my supervisor, John Wick, on Friday.
- Please call my supervisor (John Wick) on Friday.
2. The em dash is used for marking of unimportant words.
- To get to New York from here — you are heading there, right? — you need a car or a train.
3. The long dash is used to create emphasis.
- I need to go to the supermarket to buy 3 things — toothpaste, shampoo, and soap.
- My mom loves fish — my dad loves beef.
These example sentences could also be written with a colon or a semicolon.
- I need to go to the supermarket to buy 3 things: toothpaste, shampoo, and soap.
- My mom loves fish; my dad loves beef.
4. The em dash indicates a sudden change of thought in a sentence.
I had a great vacation in Bali — oh! Is that your dog? He’s so cute!
When to Use En Dash (–) with Examples
The en dash (–) is slightly wider than the hyphen (-) but narrower than the em dash (—). It is used in writing or printing to indicate a range or connections.
1. The en dash expresses a period of time.
- He lived in this town from 1998–2009.
- The ceremony will be held from June 6–June 8 at the Hilton Hotel.
- Our meeting will be from November 16–21, 2019.
2. The en dash is used to indicate a range of numbers.
- You could choose 2 numbers from 1–50.
- This lesson is on pages 20–22 in your textbook.
- If you want to buy this car, you will need at least $500–$600.
3. The en dash is used with scores.
- The red team won 3–1 in this match.
- The score the game at the moment is 1–2.
4. The en dash is used to indicate distance.
- Europe–USA is a long flight.
Em Dash vs En Dash | Chart
Learn how and when to use dashes in English with this useful chart.
11 thoughts on “Em Dash (—) vs En Dash (–): When to Use Dashes with Examples”
The first en dash example in the blue chart is wrong. When a range is introduced with “from” then the word “to” should be used, not an en dash.
A correct example using an en dash with dates would be: He recalled the years 1998–2009 as happy years.