12.9 Automatic Semicolon Insertion

Most ECMAScript statements and declarations must be terminated with a semicolon. Such semicolons may always appear explicitly in the source text. For convenience, however, such semicolons may be omitted from the source text in certain situations. These situations are described by saying that semicolons are automatically inserted into the source code token stream in those situations.

12.9.1 Rules of Automatic Semicolon Insertion

In the following rules, “token” means the actual recognized lexical token determined using the current lexical goal symbol as described in clause 12.

There are three basic rules of semicolon insertion:

  1. When, as the source text is parsed from left to right, a token (called the offending token) is encountered that is not allowed by any production of the grammar, then a semicolon is automatically inserted before the offending token if one or more of the following conditions is true:

    • The offending token is separated from the previous token by at least one LineTerminator.
    • The offending token is }.
    • The previous token is ) and the inserted semicolon would then be parsed as the terminating semicolon of a do-while statement (14.7.2).
  2. When, as the source text is parsed from left to right, the end of the input stream of tokens is encountered and the parser is unable to parse the input token stream as a single instance of the goal nonterminal, then a semicolon is automatically inserted at the end of the input stream.
  3. When, as the source text is parsed from left to right, a token is encountered that is allowed by some production of the grammar, but the production is a restricted production and the token would be the first token for a terminal or nonterminal immediately following the annotation “[no LineTerminator here]” within the restricted production (and therefore such a token is called a restricted token), and the restricted token is separated from the previous token by at least one LineTerminator, then a semicolon is automatically inserted before the restricted token.

However, there is an additional overriding condition on the preceding rules: a semicolon is never inserted automatically if the semicolon would then be parsed as an empty statement or if that semicolon would become one of the two semicolons in the header of a for statement (see 14.7.4).

Note

The following are the only restricted productions in the grammar:

UpdateExpression[Yield, Await] : LeftHandSideExpression[?Yield, ?Await] [no LineTerminator here] ++ LeftHandSideExpression[?Yield, ?Await] [no LineTerminator here] -- ContinueStatement[Yield, Await] : continue ; continue [no LineTerminator here] LabelIdentifier[?Yield, ?Await] ; BreakStatement[Yield, Await] : break ; break [no LineTerminator here] LabelIdentifier[?Yield, ?Await] ; ReturnStatement[Yield, Await] : return ; return [no LineTerminator here] Expression[+In, ?Yield, ?Await] ; ThrowStatement[Yield, Await] : throw [no LineTerminator here] Expression[+In, ?Yield, ?Await] ; ArrowFunction[In, Yield, Await] : ArrowParameters[?Yield, ?Await] [no LineTerminator here] => ConciseBody[?In] YieldExpression[In, Await] : yield yield [no LineTerminator here] AssignmentExpression[?In, +Yield, ?Await] yield [no LineTerminator here] * AssignmentExpression[?In, +Yield, ?Await]

The practical effect of these restricted productions is as follows:

  • When a ++ or -- token is encountered where the parser would treat it as a postfix operator, and at least one LineTerminator occurred between the preceding token and the ++ or -- token, then a semicolon is automatically inserted before the ++ or -- token.
  • When a continue, break, return, throw, or yield token is encountered and a LineTerminator is encountered before the next token, a semicolon is automatically inserted after the continue, break, return, throw, or yield token.

The resulting practical advice to ECMAScript programmers is:

  • A postfix ++ or -- operator should appear on the same line as its operand.
  • An Expression in a return or throw statement or an AssignmentExpression in a yield expression should start on the same line as the return, throw, or yield token.
  • A LabelIdentifier in a break or continue statement should be on the same line as the break or continue token.

12.9.2 Examples of Automatic Semicolon Insertion

This section is non-normative.

The source

{ 1 2 } 3

is not a valid sentence in the ECMAScript grammar, even with the automatic semicolon insertion rules. In contrast, the source

{ 1
2 } 3

is also not a valid ECMAScript sentence, but is transformed by automatic semicolon insertion into the following:

{ 1
;2 ;} 3;

which is a valid ECMAScript sentence.

The source

for (a; b
)

is not a valid ECMAScript sentence and is not altered by automatic semicolon insertion because the semicolon is needed for the header of a for statement. Automatic semicolon insertion never inserts one of the two semicolons in the header of a for statement.

The source

return
a + b

is transformed by automatic semicolon insertion into the following:

return;
a + b;
Note 1

The expression a + b is not treated as a value to be returned by the return statement, because a LineTerminator separates it from the token return.

The source

a = b
++c

is transformed by automatic semicolon insertion into the following:

a = b;
++c;
Note 2

The token ++ is not treated as a postfix operator applying to the variable b, because a LineTerminator occurs between b and ++.

The source

if (a > b)
else c = d

is not a valid ECMAScript sentence and is not altered by automatic semicolon insertion before the else token, even though no production of the grammar applies at that point, because an automatically inserted semicolon would then be parsed as an empty statement.

The source

a = b + c
(d + e).print()

is not transformed by automatic semicolon insertion, because the parenthesized expression that begins the second line can be interpreted as an argument list for a function call:

a = b + c(d + e).print()

In the circumstance that an assignment statement must begin with a left parenthesis, it is a good idea for the programmer to provide an explicit semicolon at the end of the preceding statement rather than to rely on automatic semicolon insertion.

12.9.3 Interesting Cases of Automatic Semicolon Insertion

This section is non-normative.

ECMAScript programs can be written in a style with very few semicolons by relying on automatic semicolon insertion. As described above, semicolons are not inserted at every newline, and automatic semicolon insertion can depend on multiple tokens across line terminators.

As new syntactic features are added to ECMAScript, additional grammar productions could be added that cause lines relying on automatic semicolon insertion preceding them to change grammar productions when parsed.

For the purposes of this section, a case of automatic semicolon insertion is considered interesting if it is a place where a semicolon may or may not be inserted, depending on the source text which precedes it. The rest of this section describes a number of interesting cases of automatic semicolon insertion in this version of ECMAScript.

12.9.3.1 Interesting Cases of Automatic Semicolon Insertion in Statement Lists

In a StatementList, many StatementListItems end in semicolons, which may be omitted using automatic semicolon insertion. As a consequence of the rules above, at the end of a line ending an expression, a semicolon is required if the following line begins with any of the following:

  • An opening parenthesis ((). Without a semicolon, the two lines together are treated as a CallExpression.
  • An opening square bracket ([). Without a semicolon, the two lines together are treated as property access, rather than an ArrayLiteral or ArrayAssignmentPattern.
  • A template literal (`). Without a semicolon, the two lines together are interpreted as a tagged Template (13.3.11), with the previous expression as the MemberExpression.
  • Unary + or -. Without a semicolon, the two lines together are interpreted as a usage of the corresponding binary operator.
  • A RegExp literal. Without a semicolon, the two lines together may be parsed instead as the / MultiplicativeOperator, for example if the RegExp has flags.

12.9.3.2 Cases of Automatic Semicolon Insertion and “[no LineTerminator here]”

This section is non-normative.

ECMAScript contains grammar productions which include “[no LineTerminator here]”. These productions are sometimes a means to have optional operands in the grammar. Introducing a LineTerminator in these locations would change the grammar production of a source text by using the grammar production without the optional operand.

The rest of this section describes a number of productions using “[no LineTerminator here]” in this version of ECMAScript.

12.9.3.2.1 List of Grammar Productions with Optional Operands and “[no LineTerminator here]”