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  1. Newbie
    Student or Learner
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      • UK
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      • England

    • Join Date: Aug 2015
    • Posts: 8

    Parentheticals, nonessentials, non-restrictors

    My question is about knowing when to use commas for nonessential words, phrases,* clauses, appositives, parenthetical elements, etc., etc. But first of all, are parenthercals/nonessentials/nonrestrictives the same thing? I've got an incline that 'parenthetical' is an all-encompassing term for all of the above?
    *If I were Superman, nonessentials would be my Kryptonite (apologies for the poor analogy), because I can't get my head around them, no matter how long I study them.

    so here goes...

    1. Do all types of 'interruptors' fall into the category of Modifer? So, when speaking in the vocative, using an interjection, or interrupting a sentence with phrases like, "I think," are they nonessential modifiers/parentheticals?

    2. Why does nowhere--and I mean literally nowhere!--discuss parentheticals that trail the main clause (in preference for mid-sentence ones), yet they occur just as often? I've read two grammar books, one punctuation-specific book, and even the Oxford Style Manual-- and none of them discuss this type of syntactic variation. An example of what I mean:
    **** "A dependent clause functions within** another clause, as a subject, completer, or modifier." (Source: Oxford SM)
    The comma between 'clause' and 'as' is a nonessential one, right? But why is it there? Aren't the words after the comma 'ESSENTIAL modifiers' because they restrict which clauses fit the condition of the statement?

    3. Are introductory words, phrases, or clauses which are separated by a comma also parentheticals/nonrestrictors? (So parentheticals can appear at the beginning, middle, or end of the sentence?) Everywhere gives the advise, 'separate them with commas', but they never explain why? Also, sometimes the introductory element contains the important info. in the sentence, so how can they be nonessential?

    4. Finally, I've come across sentences like the following:
    ** "He visited the place, which had a collection of bikes, including the 1960's model."
    Is the second prepositional phrase, starting 'including', a nonessential to the first nonessential, which itself functions in the same manner to the main clause? If so, how can you have this (a nonessential of a nonessential)? Could this pattern be repeated ad infinitum?
    ****** Sometimes I think it's down to the writer's* own personal choice when they insert commas for this purpose. Thoughts?

    I'd like to give a massive thank you in advance to anyone who takes the time to read and respond to this. Again, I apologise for the length of this post.

  2. Editor,
    English Teacher
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      • Native Language:
      • British English
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      • UK
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      • Laos

    • Join Date: Nov 2002
    • Posts: 60,704

    Re: Parentheticals, nonessentials, non-restrictors

    I'll start.

    A non-restrictive relative clause is separated off by commas from the rest of the sentence, and it gives additional information that is not essential and could be removed without making the sentence incomplete.

    He visited the museum that/which has a collection of bikes yesterday. (There are various museums and this tells me which one he went to- the one with the bikes,not the war museum. This is a restrictive relative clause as it restricts the meaning by telling us exactly which museum. It is not separated off by commas. If you remove it, I will not be sure which museum he went to)

    Now, if the town only has one museum, then you don't need to tell me which museum he visited:

    Yesterday he visited the museum, which has a collection of bikes. (I know which museum and there is only one, but I might not know it has a collection of bikes. This is a piece of extra information you have thrown in for free, and it is separated off by commas. If you remove it, the sentence still gives me the basic and most important message about where he went yesterday. It doesn't restrict the meaning or define it, so it is non-restrictive/non-defining.)


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