Strange and mysterious COMMA in English

Of all the punctuation marks in English, it is the comma that suffers makes us suffer the most. There are many rules that commas obey. Sometimes they even coincide with the rules in your native language. Sometimes… =)

So! Let's figure out how to use commas in English once and for all. 

1. After the introductory constructions at the beginning of the sentence - YES. For example, after participial clauses.

Grabbing her umbrella, Kate rushed out to pick up the kitten.
Built by my father, the house has been standing for 50 years.

2. After adverbial phrases, if these phrases are longer than 2 words - YES.

Without saying a word, he took his phone and went out.

If this phrase is short, no comma is required.
Yesterday I saw the lion for the first time.

And one more BUT!
If we want to underline this short phrase or add a pause, a comma can be used.
Suddenly, we saw a huge bird flying in the sky.

3. After adverbial phrases, if the meaning of the sentence can be perceived ambiguously, - YES.

Before eating, wash their hands. - CORRECT
Before eating, wash their hands. - INCORRECT

4. We separate introductory constructions in the middle of a sentence with commas. Such introductory constructions usually provide additional information or clarify the word. But if they are removed, the meaning of the sentence will not change.

My students, I am happy to see, grow their confidence in using English with every lesson.
Commas, sadly, are often misused and forgotten in English.
Black chocolate, the only one I do like, always makes me feel better.

5. We use commas in question tags.

You saw my message, didn't you?
This horse is gorgeous, isn't it?

6. Addressing someone is always separated by commas.

Mom, where's my T-shirt?

7. We use commas with dates! Moreover, in different ways, depending on the style of writing

In the month-day-year format, the year is separated by a comma:
My best friend was born on December 12, 1989.

In the day-month-year format, commas are NOT needed:
December 31, 2019 was the best day of his life.

Day of the week + date requires a comma:
On Friday, April 15, there was a meeting for all staff.

In combination month + year, commas are NOT required:
The hottest day was in June 2021.

8. Separate coordinate adjectives with a comma. Those that describe the word equally. How to understand it? If adjectives can be interchanged without violating the rules of sequence, this is it =)

I am sorry, but he is a pompous, self-righteous, annoying idiot.

9. We put a comma before BUT if it connects a compound sentence.

Mark is a good employee, but he is an even better manager.

If but does not connect two independent sentences, but simply two parts of one sentence, then commas are not needed.
The task was difficult but interesting to complete.

10. Separate lists of three or more words with a comma. A list of two words is usually separated by and.

She likes apples, bananas and chocolate.

Sometimes you will see a comma before and in a list of three or more words. But this is not a rule, just a personal choice. It will not be a mistake either to have it there or not.
She likes apples, bananas, and chocolate.

11. Separate with commas non-defining relative clauses - again, those parts of the sentence that bring additional information. But if you remove them, the meaning will not be lost.

That bookshop near my office, which Peter recommended, is just wonderful!

We DO NOT separate defining relative clauses with commas - those parts that carry important information and cannot be cut out without losing the meaning of the sentence.
I love the bookshop which Peter recommended.
If you remove the part which Peter recommended, then the sentence will lose its meaning.

12. Do NOT need commas between correlative conjunctions (either/or, neither/nor, not only …but also, etc.)

Choose either the green shirt or the blue one. Both will suit you.
You will lose not only your time but also energy.

13. The comma at As well as is needed if it is part of non-defining relative clauses

Commas, as well as other punctuation marks, annoy a lot of English learners.

The comma is not needed if it is part of defining relative clauses
I am so annoyed by commas as well as phonetics in English!

14. The same rule is applied to Such as:

Domestic animals, such as horses, are very difficult to look after.
Animals such as horses are very strong and enduring.

15. The comma before Too is your choice.

I like cats too.
I like cats, too.

16. A comma is placed after the brackets if the sentence requires it.

After reading the book (and returning it to the library), he remembered that he'd left some money there.


Author: Ruslana Kravtsova

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