Correct use of comma

The punctuation mark comma is used to reflect pauses in speech.

Uses

Commas have the following uses.

In lists

We use commas to separate items in a series or list. Note that in a list the last two items are connected with a conjunction like ‘and’ or ‘or’. In

British English, a comma is not used before ‘and’.

  • We went to Spain, France, Italy, Germany and Ireland.
  • I need to buy some rice, oil, pepper, sugar and pasta.
  • I spent the whole day playing cricket, watching TV and thinking about the meaning of life.

With adjectives

When a number of adjectives are used in the predicative position to modify a noun, commas are used to separate them.

  • He was tall, dark and handsome.
  • He is intelligent, charismatic and articulate.

Adjectives used before a noun are also separated with a comma.

Words that interrupt the normal progression of a sentence are also separated with commas.

  • The boss, however, didn’t approve the plan.
  • Uncle had, surprisingly, paid for everything.
  • James, my colleague, is an architect.

Note that two commas are necessary in these cases.

Co-ordinate clauses

Clauses connected with and, but or or are usually separated by commas unless they are very short.

  • James bought a DSLR camera, and Andrew decided to buy a laptop.

Note that the comma is dropped if the clauses are too short.

  • Jane had a coffee and Andrew had a tea.

Subordinate clauses

When subordinate clauses begin sentences, they are often separated by commas.

  • When he was in Mexico, he worked as a bar tender.
  • After he finished his dinner, he went to the movies.

Commas are also used after expressions like nevertheless, however, therefore, nonetheless, even so, first, second, finally, on the one hand, on the other hand, by contrast, on the contrary etc.

  • ‘Interesting movie?’ ‘On the contrary, it was a complete waste of time.’

Related posts:

  1. When to use commas to separate words and phrases
  2. Connecting sentences with conjunctions and transitional adverbs
  3. How to avoid run-on sentences?
  4. When to set off relative clauses with commas
  5. IELTS essays: common grammar mistakes to avoid
  6. Correct use of relative pronouns
  7. Complex sentences
  8. Remove unnecessary conjunctions from your sentences
  9. Using on the one hand, on the other hand
  10. Using however

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