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COMMAS

Updated: Oct 3, 2023


1. LISTING

- used as a kind of substitute for the word

- it is used when listing three or more words, phrases or even complete sentences

I speak English, German and Spanish.

He travelled by train, plane and bus.

Julian likes to watch TV, Maria loves to play games and Marc likes to ride a bike.

- in British usage, it is not usual to write a comma before the word and or or in comparison to American usage

I speak English, German, and Spanish.

- you should put a comma in that position if you want to make the meaning clear:

- used in a list of modifiers which all modify the same thing:

This is an interesting, difficult question.

His short, spiky, colourful hair shocked many people.


THE OXFORD COMMA:

It is an optional comma before the word ‘and’ at the end of a list.

It is also known as the serial comma.

We offer manicure, pedicure, and massages.


It doesn’t have to be used, but it can clarify the meaning of a sentence when the items are not single words like in this example:

These items are sold in black and white, red and yellow, and blue and green.


2. JOINING

- joins two complete sentences into a single sentence, and it must be followed by connecting words such as and, or, but, while, so, nor and yet

The summer weather was hot, yet the evenings were still very cold.

I was working in the garden, while my kids spent time on computers.

You must submit your report by the end of the week, or you will have to work on it at the weekend.


3. DEPENDENT (SUBORDINATE) CLAUSE + INDEPENDENT (MAIN) CLAUSE

- write a comma when a subordinate clause comes first

- subordinate clauses start with connectors such as:

· although

· even though

· whereas

· unless

· if

· when

The other ones: while, despite, in addition to …


4. SHORTENING SENTENCES

- if extra information (usually relative clause) is inserted into a sentence, it can also be removed without losing its meaning, but it must be with commas

Marketa’s sister, who is much younger, was recruited to army thanks to her persistence and hard work.


5. APPOSITION = přístavek

- a noun or noun phrase that renames a nearby noun, nonessential information

- non-restrictive appositive uses commas

Barack Obama, the US president, was probably the most popular president among African Americans.


6. TITLES

- use commas before or surrounding the name of a person who you address directly

Sure, Madame, I will help you.

Would you, Mr. Norc, wait here?


7. AFTER SENTENCE INTRODUCTIONS

- usually a clause element, adverbials

Generally speaking, Therefore,

However, In addition,

After lunch, let’s relax and digest. Nevertheless,



Some connecting words require a semicolon to join two independent (complete) clauses: however, hence, therefore, thus, consequently, nevertheless, and meanwhile. If the clauses are not complete, a comma is used and not the semicolon.


It was expected that the world’s remaining glaciers will melt before the year 2100; however, this has been brought forward by 50 years.

or

It was expected that the world’s remaining glaciers will melt before the year 2100. However, this has been brought forward by 50 years.


Her boss denied her holiday request for the third time; hence, she decided to give notice.

or

Her boss denied her holiday request for the third time, hence her notice.


If not sure, follow this tip:

‘Use a comma after phrases or clauses of more than three words that begin a sentence (unless it is the subject of the sentence). If the phrase has fewer than three words, the comma is optional.(…) Remember that the main reason we use commas in the first place is to help our readers understand our sentences in the exact ways in which they are intended to be understood. If commas will help them do this, using them could be considered to be correct, regardless of any prescriptive rule that some expert may have formulated.’


8. QUESTION TAGS

You haven’t done the shopping, have you?

It was you again, wasn’t it?

9. DIRECT QUOTATIONS

“I had no idea it was so late already,” said Joseph.

Jane said, “Let’s not close the deal.”

Amanda said, ‘I would never give up.’


10. ADDRESSES

Nick James lives at 23 Garden Street, New York 10020, but he is thinking of moving to Seattle in order to be closer to his family.


11. DATES

I was born in Berlin, on November 2, 1989.


12. NUMBERS – splitting thousands

2,000

140,000

1,300,000


13. CONTRASTING PARTS

She asked me, not you.


14. OTHER EXPRESSIONS

- write a comma before

for example

for instance

i.e. (= id est = that is)

e.g.

namely


You have to be dressed appropriately to enter mosques, i.e. long sleeves, no shorts, no bare shoulders and ankles.

We could go, for example, to the mountains. We need to take a break from the city life.

I have very adventurous friends. For example, Ivonne has just gone parachuting.



FOR CZECH STUDENTS:

Don't rely on Czech rules in English. You will make mistakes. Here are two common mistakes that Czech students of English make.


1) čárka před že (no comma before 'that')

'That' is a relative pronoun used in defining relative clauses and is not used with a comma. Therefore, it can never be used in relative non-defining relative clauses.

Don't write a comma before that.

I was so happy that I could see them before moving.



2) čárka před protože ( no comma before 'because')

If 'because' is used as a conjunction, it is used without a comma.

I am busy because I'm snowed under at work.

Vincenzo proposed to his girlfriend because he really loved her.


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