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@Jacob B. posted:

Am I correct in not adding commas in these sentences?

"The mother allowed the father to take the children with the understanding that they would be returned the next day."

"Mr. Green was yelling and swearing at Mrs. Green when he pushed her onto the floor."

Hi, Jacob B.—All the threads you have started at this forum so far have had the same title: "Comma usage." This title, which can be faulted for being relatively uninformative, becomes all the more uninformative the more you use it.

Besides thinking about the titles you use, please also number your example sentences for ease of reference. And consider whether examples belong in the same thread or should really be given different threads.

I assume you want us to divine that, if you were to add a comma in those two sentences, which have different structures and should really be given separate threads, you would do so after "children" and "Mrs. Green," respectively.

In each case, the comma can be added or not. The issue is meaning. In the first example, the absence of a comma renders "with the understanding . . ." essential. With the comma, "with the understanding" is an incidental detail.

In the second example, which has a different grammar from the first, the comma-free version says what Mr. Green was doing when he pushed her. In the version with the comma, it indicates that the yelling and swearing led to a push.

Last edited by David, Moderator

In the second example, which has a different grammar from the first, the comma-free version says what Mr. Green was doing when he pushed her. In the version with the comma, it indicates that the yelling and swearing led to a push.

Hi David, when you say "led to a push", does that only mean that the yelling and swearing caused the push, or could it also mean that the push simply followed the yelling and swearing without being caused by it?

I started thinking about this when I wrote the following sentence at work: "The parties had been living together for 2 months when Mrs. Green ended the relationship in April 2021."

The parties living together did not cause her to end the relationship, but ending the relationship did follow their having been together for 2 months.  I ultimately chose not to use the comma because the one wasn't caused by the other, but the one did follow the other so I'm not sure if I was right or not.

Last edited by Jacob B.

Hi, Jacob B.—When a "when"-clause comes at the end of a sentence rather than at the beginning, it functions as an adverbial within the superordinate clause and is not normally set off by a comma. It plays the same role as "then" in "X happened then."

When such a "when"-clause is (abnormally) set off by a comma, the slight delay induced by the comma suggests that the sentence no longer means "X happened then." The effect of the comma is to render the construction comparable to this: "X happened, (and) then Y happened."

If you don't want that effect, don't use the abnormal comma.

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