The Comma

The Comma

In this lesson, you'll learn how to use the comma in the English language. Correct use of the comma is one of the trickier aspects of English grammar.

Examples are included in the lesson to help you learn how to correctly use the comma in your own writing.



Learning to use commas correctly is one of the more difficult aspects of English grammar. In this lesson we'll go over the proper use of the comma.

There are several places that a comma is used in English. The following sections show the different uses of a comma in English.

To Separate Items in a List

When writing a list of items consisting of more than two items, place a comma between each item. If there are only two items in the list, then a comma is not needed. For example:

1) I brought some drinks and snacks for us.

2) The computer has a monitor, keyboard, and mouse.

3) I bought a loaf of bread, four apples, a can of soup, and a box of cereal.

The last comma in the previous two sentences is optional, but it is a good idea to use it, especially in business writing.

To Join Independent Clauses

When two independent clauses are joined by a conjunction such as and, but, for, or, nor, yet, still, a comma is used before the conjunction. The comma is not required if the two independent clauses are short and closely related.

1) We can send your purchase on April 3, but we must have your payment first.

2) It is raining at the beach, yet I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

3) I think it is a bad idea, and I don't want to do it.

To Offset Introductory Phrases or Conditions

If a sentence begins with a dependent clause or phrase, a comma is used after the dependent clause or phrase. For very short phrases the comma may be omitted if there is no interruption to the flow of the sentence.

1) As I mentioned earlier, we need another desk.

2) Beginning January 1, we will no longer accept credit cards.

3) In the first three months, we had only four customers.

To Enclose Parenthetic Remarks

Parenthetic remarks are explanations or afterthoughts added to a sentence.

1) I will, in the meantime, order another drink.

2) As a result, I can't go to the movie tonight.

3) That is, in fact, a terrible idea.

4) We must, nevertheless, carry on.

To Separate Consecutive Adjectives

If there are several consecutive adjectives in a sentence that describe a noun, and they can be separated by and, then the adjectives are separated by a comma.

To Separate Certain Adverbs

Adverbs such as accordingly, however, indeed, next, instead, finally, and similarly require a comma between them and the rest of the sentence.

Note: When next is used as an adjective, it does not have an adjective between it and the noun. There is no comma when instead is followed by of.

Dates, Addresses, and Locations

When a date, place, or location has more than one element, the second and succeeding elements should be followed by a comma.

1) I was born on March 12, 1978.

2) I was born on April 17, 1981, in Portland, Oregon.

3) I moved from Los Angeles, California, to Seattle, Washington, when I was 12.

4) His address is 35464 Sunny St., Toronto, Ontario.

Direct and Indirect Speech

Direct Speech

“I’m writing an essay,” Sam said.

Sam said, “I’m writing an essay.”

“Are you writing an essay?” Sam asked.

Indirect speech

Sam said, that he was writing an essay.

Sam asked, if I was writing an essay.

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