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  1. Eric Davis's Avatar

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    #1

    Comma preceding an adverbial clause?

    I have noticed in several writings the use of a commas that precede adverbial clauses. Having read much on the subject, I am a little confused regarding this practice. I always thought that an adverbial clause, when appearing at the end of a sentence, was not preceded by a comma. There is a subtle reason for using a comma before an adverbial clause that escapes my perception, and I am hoping someone can explain its purpose.


    "I know he committed suicide, because his wife told me."

    I can understand its use in the above sentence, but elsewhere I am lacking understanding.

    Help...

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    #2

    Re: Comma preceding an adverbial clause?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Davis View Post
    I have noticed in several writings the use of a commas that precede adverbial clauses. Having read much on the subject, I am a little confused regarding this practice. I always thought that an adverbial clause, when appearing at the end of a sentence, was not preceded by a comma. There is a subtle reason for using a comma before an adverbial clause that escapes my perception, and I am hoping someone can explain its purpose.


    "I know he committed suicide, because his wife told me."

    I can understand its use in the above sentence, but elsewhere I am lacking understanding.

    Help...

    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****

    Good morning, Mr. Davis.

    (1) I don't know whether the following is helpful, but I offer it for your consideration (in case you don't already know it).

    (a) I didn't come to the party, because Tom was there. (I hate Tom. He was at the party. So I did not come.) (Comma gives us necessary pause)

    (b) I didn't come to the party because Tom was there. (Everybody knows that I hate Tom. But that is NOT the reason I missed the party. I had a personal emergency.) (No comma because you need to say the whole sentence with a rising, uninterrupted tone in your voice)

    (c) I don't read Newspaper X, because I don't like it. (No explanation needed)

    (d) I don't read Newspaper X because I don't like it. (In fact, I love it. But it's too expensive for me. That's why I don't read it.)

    Have a nice day!

  2. Eric Davis's Avatar

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    #3

    Re: Comma preceding an adverbial clause?

    Quote Originally Posted by TheParser View Post
    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****

    Good morning, Mr. Davis.

    (1) I don't know whether the following is helpful, but I offer it for your consideration (in case you don't already know it).

    (a) I didn't come to the party, because Tom was there. (I hate Tom. He was at the party. So I did not come.) (Comma gives us necessary pause)

    (b) I didn't come to the party because Tom was there. (Everybody knows that I hate Tom. But that is NOT the reason I missed the party. I had a personal emergency.) (No comma because you need to say the whole sentence with a rising, uninterrupted tone in your voice)

    (c) I don't read Newspaper X, because I don't like it. (No explanation needed)

    (d) I don't read Newspaper X because I don't like it. (In fact, I love it. But it's too expensive for me. That's why I don't read it.)

    Have a nice day!
    HUh... Well, I'm not certain that that is correct. I did find one example online, though. It stated that when a negative verb phrase precedes a because clause, the clause may or may not require a comma, depending on the meaning of the sentence.

    "They did not elect Wilson because he is outspoken."
    "They did not elect Wilson, because he is outspoken."

    The first sentence is saying that they may have elected Wilson but not because he is outspoken. The second sentence is saying that the fact that Wilson is outspoken is why they didn't elect him.

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    #4

    Re: Comma preceding an adverbial clause?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Davis View Post
    HUh... Well, I'm not certain that that is correct. I did find one example online, though. It stated that when a negative verb phrase precedes a because clause, the clause may or may not require a comma, depending on the meaning of the sentence.

    "They did not elect Wilson because he is outspoken."
    "They did not elect Wilson, because he is outspoken."

    The first sentence is saying that they may have elected Wilson but not because he is outspoken. The second sentence is saying that the fact that Wilson is outspoken is why they didn't elect him.

    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****

    Good morning, Mr. Davis.

    (1) Thank you for your note.

    (2) I now understand that my sentence (b) means that I DID come to the party but not because Tom was there.

    Thank you so much for helping me to better understand English.

    Have a nice day!

  3. Eric Davis's Avatar

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    #5

    Re: Comma preceding an adverbial clause?

    I'm still having a hard time digesting the notion that a simple comma can alter the meaning of a sentence in such a drastic way. Where else does it perform this trick, I wonder.

    The online reference is not very thorough, I'm sorry to say.

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    #6

    Re: Comma preceding an adverbial clause?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Davis View Post
    I'm still having a hard time digesting the notion that a simple comma can alter the meaning of a sentence in such a drastic way. Where else does it perform this trick, I wonder.

    The online reference is not very thorough, I'm sorry to say.
    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****

    Mr. Davis,

    I wish to share a wonderful and supposedly true story.

    It will NOT help answer your specific question.

    It WILL show you the power of the comma.

    Once upon a time (really!!!), there was a king in England named Edward. He was being held prisoner. One day his guards received a note from the bad guy who had arrested the king. The note was in Latin. It did NOT contain a comma.

    (Please excuse me if I did not copy the Latin correctly. I do not know Latin.)

    (a) Edwardum occidere nolite timere , bonum est.
    (b) Edwardum occidere nolite , timere bonum est.

    As I said, the writer did NOT put a comma. Therefore, the guards did not know whether the bad guy meant (a) or (b).

    (a) = Kill the king.

    (b) = Don't kill the king.

    The history books tell us that the guards decided that the bad guy meant (a) and so they . ...

  4. fighting spirit's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: Comma preceding an adverbial clause?

    This trick is also performed in Relative Clauses.
    Examples:

    1. My sister who lives in Bulgaria is a teacher.
    Meaning: I have more than one sister. Just the one who lives in Bulgaria is a teacher.

    2. My sister, who lives in Bulgaria, is a teacher.
    Meaning: I have only one sister. She is a teacher, and by the way, she lives in Bulgaria.

  5. Eric Davis's Avatar

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    #8

    Re: Comma preceding an adverbial clause?

    Quote Originally Posted by fighting spirit View Post
    This trick is also performed in Relative Clauses.
    Examples:

    1. My sister who lives in Bulgaria is a teacher.
    Meaning: I have more than one sister. Just the one who lives in Bulgaria is a teacher.

    2. My sister, who lives in Bulgaria, is a teacher.
    Meaning: I have only one sister. She is a teacher, and by the way, she lives in Bulgaria.

    Thanks for your thoughts. I am aware of the use of commas to set off nonrestrictive clauses. That's well documented online...

    relative clauses - Google Search

    Also, there is a lot of information regarding comma usage...

    comma usage - Google Search

    However, all fall short of explaining the finer details regarding comma usage. As I read more literature, I often find comma usage which doesn't fit the standardized rules that I have found through online sources. As an example, the use of a comma before an adverbial clause is generally considered unnecessary. If you read the online authority on the matter, commas are never placed before such a clause, but the truth is, there are instances when a comma is needed.

    What I need is an exhaustive resource that covers all aspects of comma usage. Unfortunately, I have yet to find one.

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    #9

    Re: Comma preceding an adverbial clause?

    Good afternoon, Mr. Davis.

    (1) I promise (Scout's honor), this is my last post in this thread.

    (2) I have located the "exhaustive resource" about commas that you are looking for.

    (3) The author devotes 20 pages to every use of the comma (including -- yes! -- the comma or lack thereof before a "because" clause).

    (4) The book is titled MODERN AMERICAN USAGE by Wilson Follett. I have the 1980 edition.

    (5) I don't know whether there is a newer edition. I guess you could check out a copy at a local library. In the back of the book, there is section devoted to punctuation.

    Have a nice day!

    *****

    P. S. I have not reported to you what he said about "because" clauses and the comma, because I don't understand the explanation well enough to try teaching it to someone else. I am pretty sure you will be delighted with his book as am I -- at least with the parts I can understand.

  6. Eric Davis's Avatar

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    #10

    Re: Comma preceding an adverbial clause?

    Quote Originally Posted by TheParser View Post
    Good afternoon, Mr. Davis.

    (1) I promise (Scout's honor), this is my last post in this thread.

    (2) I have located the "exhaustive resource" about commas that you are looking for.

    (3) The author devotes 20 pages to every use of the comma (including -- yes! -- the comma or lack thereof before a "because" clause).

    (4) The book is titled MODERN AMERICAN USAGE by Wilson Follett. I have the 1980 edition.

    (5) I don't know whether there is a newer edition. I guess you could check out a copy at a local library. In the back of the book, there is section devoted to punctuation.

    Have a nice day!

    *****

    P. S. I have not reported to you what he said about "because" clauses and the comma, because I don't understand the explanation well enough to try teaching it to someone else. I am pretty sure you will be delighted with his book as am I -- at least with the parts I can understand.

    I will take any help that I can find. I will give your book a look. I have been looking at buying The Chicago Manual of Style, but I know its section on comma usage is lacking a comprehensive analysis. Thank you for your kind consideration.

    It looks as though I can buy it through Amazon...
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listi...condition=used

    Take care,
    Eric
    Last edited by Eric Davis; 12-Apr-2010 at 00:54.

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