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  1. Nightmare85's Avatar
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    #1

    comma questions

    Hello guys,
    I often have problems with commas, when to use them and when not.

    Several times I got hints, now I'll try to create some example sentences with the hope that they are correct.
    1. My father, whose car was stolen a week ago, will buy a new one this week.
    2. A woman who doesn't apply make-up hardly exists.
    3. My computer, that has been existed for 3 years, becomes too old.
    4. Computers that exist for more than 3 years should be replaced by new ones.
    5. My cat died, which makes me very sad.

    6. Tom is a guy who never gives up.

    I believe, that:
    #1 and #3 need commas because I'm talking about one
    (a specific one).
    #2 and #4 don't need commas because I'm talking about the generality.
    #5 could need a comma in order to markedly separate the two parts.
    #6 doesn't need a comma but I can't explain it...



    Cheers!

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    #2

    Re: comma questions

    Quote Originally Posted by Nightmare85 View Post
    Hello guys,
    I often have problems with commas, when to use them and when not.

    Several times I got hints, now I'll try to create some example sentences with the hope that they are correct.
    1. My father, whose car was stolen a week ago, will buy a new one this week. Correct: the text within the quotes is a non-defining relative clause (you could put it in brackets and the sense of the main clause would not be lost)
    2. A woman who doesn't apply make-up hardly exists. Correct: no commas since this is a defining relative clause that functions like an adjective. Put it in brackets and the main clause would read 'A woman hardly exists'! PS: I'd sooner write this as 'There are hardly any women who don't apply make-up.'
    3. My computer, which I've hadthat has been existed for 3 years, has becomes too old. As in 1. Note 'which/who' for both non-defining and defining relative clauses but 'that' for defining relative clauses only
    4. Computers that exist for are more than 3 years-old should be replaced by new ones. Correct: defining so no commas. See 3 - you could say 'Computers which ...' - as for which/who v that for defining relative clauses, it's generally a question of preference
    5. My cat died, which makes me very sad. Correct: non-defining
    6. Tom is a guy who never gives up. Correct: defining

    I believe, that:
    #1 and #3 need commas because I'm talking about one (a specific one).
    #2 and #4 don't need commas because I'm talking about the generality.
    #5 could need a comma in order to markedly separate the two parts.
    #6 doesn't need a comma but I can't explain it...



    Cheers!
    Bertie

  2. Nightmare85's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: comma questions

    Thank you, Bertie

    Just a question:
    3. My computer, that I've had for 3 years, has become too old.
    Do you think this is also good (that instead of which)?
    I thought it was better to use that when we describe a word directly.
    In that case, we describe this computer, more or less.

    If not, would this be suitable:
    My computer, that has 2 GB DDR2-RAM, has become too old.

    Cheers!

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    #4

    Re: comma questions

    Quote Originally Posted by Nightmare85 View Post
    Thank you, Bertie

    Just a question:
    3. My computer, that I've had for 3 years, has become too old.
    Do you think this is also good (that instead of which)?
    I thought it was better to use that when we describe a word directly.
    In that case, we describe this computer, more or less.

    If not, would this be suitable:
    My computer, that has 2 GB DDR2-RAM, has become too old.

    Cheers!
    'which' for non-defining relative clauses, as here, and not 'that'

    Useful tip: if unsure whether a clause is defining or not, use 'which'/'who' rather than 'that' to cover your ground. Your sentence might be wrong because it's missing a comma but that's better than it being wrong because you used the wrong relative pronoun.

    Finally, many, many English writers are pretty haphazard in their use of the comma before non-defining relative clauses - they might one paragraph; they might not the next. I guess if they can't see any ambiguity, they don't think to put a comma in. And that's the basis we often work on as proofreaders, at least where I work. We tend to insert commas if the sense is unclear without; otherwise, we would be returning pages with endless comma insertions to our clients, and that would p**s them off considerably!

  3. Nightmare85's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: comma questions

    Thanks again.

    I hope I got your points, so this is okay:
    My Computer, which I've had for 3 years, has become old. - non-defining relative clause
    Computers that are 3 years old should be replaced by new ones. - defining clause


    And if I'm not 100% sure if I should use which or that, I just make:
    My computer that I've had for 3 years has become old.
    (It's wrong but better 2 missing commas than a wrong that)


    Cheers!

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    #6

    Re: comma questions

    Quote Originally Posted by Nightmare85 View Post
    Thanks again.

    I hope I got your points, so this is okay:
    My Computer, which I've had for 3 years, has become old. - non-defining relative clause
    Computers that are 3 years old should be replaced by new ones. - defining clause


    And if I'm not 100% sure if I should use which or that, I just make:
    My computer whichthat I've had for 3 years has become old.
    (It's wrong but better 2 missing commas than a wrong that)

    If you aren't sure use 'which'/'who' not 'that' since they can be used with both defining and non-defining relative clauses whereas 'that' cannot
    Cheers!
    Bertie

  4. BobK's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: comma questions

    A helpful rule of thumb - if you have trouble recognizing defining relative clauses - is 'If it's a comment, use a comma'.

    Incidentally, there are many people - largely those brought up on a diet of Strunk and White - who apply a strict 'rule': "non-defining - 'which'; defining - 'that'. As Bertie says, 'which' is perfectly OK in either case, but if you use 'which' without a preceding comma Word underlines it angrily in red (and would probably rap you on the knuckles if it could)!

    b
    Last edited by BobK; 26-May-2010 at 18:34. Reason: typo

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