Introduction to Commas
A comma indicated and represented by (,) is used as a pause between parts of sentences, or while separating items in a list. When writing a sentence, a comma acts as a tool that helps the readers to understand certain separations of words, ideas, or even phrases, that might get confusing if said as a whole. In this article, we will be covering the importance, uses, and examples of how the comma is used in sentences to improve their understandability.
What are Commas Used for?
Commas have some basic uses that help people to understand the meaning and functionality of the sentence better. Let us look into how to use a comma properly and where to put commas:
Separating Independent Clauses
When writing a coordinating conjunction in a sentence, a comma is used before the conjunction to separate two independent clauses.
- Example: She walked down the road, and then took a left to visit the patisserie.
Using a comma after an introductory clause
A comma is used after an introductory clause to help readers understand that the introduction is over and the main part of the sentence is about to begin.
- Sentences with commas examples: Near a small rivulet in the national park, the miners finally found the gold mine. Inside the reserved area of the national park, the rangers found a couple of rhinoceros.
Using a comma to separate items in a series or list
If you have multiple items as a list but want to accommodate them in a sentence, then a comma is the best way to keep the items separated, and yet form a sentence. However, there are no restrictions on how many commas in a sentence one can use.
Series of words: We shopped for strawberries, bananas, apples, and pineapples in the farmer’s market.
Series of phrases: Milan looked under the desk, in the cupboards, and in the drawers for his lost file.
Using a comma to set off nonrestrictive clauses in a sentence
Sometimes a comma is used to enclose a clause within a sentence that might not be very important, or directly essential to the meaning of the sentence.
- Example: Sandra, who went fishing with Mary last year, is starting her job in Canada.
Setting off appositives using a comma
Appositives often offer non-essential information and essentially is a noun or noun phrase that renames a nearby noun.
- Example: The Oklahoma Jets, the underdogs, took everyone by surprise by winning the Super Bowl.
Indicting direct address
Direct addressing is often indicated by the use of a comma before such as to make the listener understand that they are being directly addressed.
- Example: I think, Mary, you are blowing the matter out of proportion.
Sandra, I think you are wrong in this situation.
How to use commas
Separating Items in a List
Using commas to separate items in a list is a great way to keep the items separated, and yet bring them together in the same sentences. Commas are often used to separate series of words, clauses, or even phrases.
Series of words: We got pencils, erasers, pens, and rulers from the stationary shop.
Series of clauses: Lily promised that she would be a good girl, will listen to her teachers, and would not beat her brother.
Series of phrases: The class teacher looked through the drawers, in the desks, and in the cupboards to look for the missing registers.
Improper use of commas:
The correct way: Man, bacon really does make everything better!
The incorrect way: Man bacon, really does make everything better!
Separating Independent Clauses
When writing a sentence, one can use a comma before a coordinating conjunction ( for example- and, but, yet etc) to join two complete ideas into one sentence.
Example: You can come shopping with me, or go for dinner alone.
She walked down the road, and then took a left for the school.
Improper usage: He went to the store and, then checked if he could also get the stationary items for his school work.
Setting Off Nonessential Elements
A comma punctuation can be used to set off elements, which are not really required in the sentence, and in the absence of which, the sentence will still hold its original meaning.
Example: If we say the sentence, ‘My uncle, who works in a steel factory, is going fishing.’ then, saying, ‘My uncle is going fishing.’ brings forth the same meaning of the sentence and the phrase ‘who works in a steel factory’ is not essential to the meaning of the sentence.
Essential Element example: A 1970’s band, Queen, rose to fame with their famous song Bohemian Rhapsody.
Non-Essential Element Example: Queen, a 1970s band, rose to fame with their famous song Bohemian Rhapsody.
In the above two examples, the fact that the band belongs to the 1970s is not very necessary to the meaning of the sentence that indicated that the band got famous thanks to their songs.
Commas can be used between two adjectives if two attributes are explained within the same sentence having a similar meaning.
Example: Mary is a reliable, resourceful woman. (here, reliable and resourceful are two adjectives which are added in the same sentence and both words have a similar meaning.)
Improper usage: The baby was tired, sleeping in the crib.
Proper usage: The baby was tired, sleepy, and wet.
Therefore, two adjectives that put meaning to the sentence are to be separated by a comma.
Setting Off Introductory Elements
A comma can be used to set off a mild explanation of a sentence right at the beginning of it. It might not directly affect the sentence, but adds a subtle meaning to it.
Example: Well, have you started with the painting yet?
(This is where it comma is used after well, and though well doesn’t really affect the sentence, it adds a subtle strength to it.)
Improper Usage: Though, he is going as well. (Int his sentence, there is no need for the word though, since we are using it as well at the end of the sentence.)
Proper usage: However, Toni just finished her part of the file so we can submit that section.
It is easy to determine where to use the comma to set off introductory elements as comma is mostly used after words like however, well, oh, yes, no, why, consequently, etc.
When someone is addressed by their name, then a comma is added right after the name or the person who is being addressed before the sentence starts.
Example: 1. Carol, please open the door.
William, make sure you finish the painting today.
Raza, make sure the president gets all the copies by the end of the day.
Improper usage: Luke you can tell us a story, right?
Proper usage: Luke, can you tell us a story?
(In the above examples, the comma is written right after the person addressed.)
Comma which is written right after the person who is being addressed makes the sentence clearer. For example, if we say- “Luke, please open the door to the balcony.” then we see a particular set of instructions that are being given to Luke which is to open the balcony door. This makes the sentence much more clear.
If you want to know what are commas and how commas are used in a lot of places, then it is to make the meaning of the sentence clearer. For example, it is written before conjunction to ensure that the independent clauses are explained well. For example, if we say ‘You can go for dinner alone, or join me at the movies.’- then a comma is added before the conjunction to make the meaning of the sentence clearer.
A comma makes the sentence much clearer. If we say that ‘Luke, can you tell us a story tonight?’ then putting a comma after Luke ensures that the person addressed knows that they are being addressed to.
- Commas have certain rules and one must adhere to them so that the meaning of the sentence comes out clear.
- The basic usage of commas is the enhance the sentence structure and ensure that the meaning is conveyed properly.
- Improper usage of grammar can change the meaning of the sentence.
- The comma can be used to address directly or separate multiple items in a series.
Question comes here
Frequently Asked Questions
Using commas can make your sentence look more structured and meaningful. Some comma examples include if you are using a comma to separate two independent clauses, then a usage like this – ‘It is an old motorbike, but it is very reliable.’ makes the sentence more meaningful and adds a certain strength to the subject. Similarly using a comma to separate a series of words, enables you to add more words to the same sentence.
There is no set limit to how many commas can be used in a sentence as long as every comma is following at least one rule.
Non-essential elements in a sentence do not really add meaning to the sentence, and in fact, a sentence could be written with the same meaning without the non-essential element in it. For example, if we write ‘Basketball, the game that was invented in the 1900s, is a crowd-favorite sport now.’ We can also write ‘Basketball is a crowd favorite sport now.’ and it will have the same meaning.
We cannot use a comma to separate a subject and a verb in a sentence. If we write ‘The dog, crossed the sidewalk.’ Then this sentence makes no sense and the comma usage has been abused.
Do not use a comma to separate a verb from the subject. Like don’t write the sentence- ‘The dog crossed the East Lane sidewalk’ as The dog, crossed the East Lane sidewalk.’ Do not add a comma after the sentence has ended. Do not add the comma before an essential adjective clause like ‘It is the same place, where I eat hot dogs during lunch hours.’- as the comma over here is completely unnecessary.
Semicolon is used between independent clauses that are not joined by conjunctions while a comma is used in between independent clauses joined by conjunctions like and, but, etc.
Yes, you can put a comma before and. Example- ‘Mary ate the pie, and made sure to clean up after herself