Friday, August 07, 2009

Grammar: Clauses and phrases and commas, oh my!

As promised, today is another grammar day featuring -- commas.

Introductory causes

If using an introductory cause, you need to use a comma. Common starter words include after, although, as, because, if, since, when and while.

Because it is my turn, I'll take it now.
As if in grief, the paid mourners howled.
When I was a little girl, I was expected to be seen and not heard.

However, and you just knew there would be, if you turn these sentences around, no comma is needed because they are dependent (subordinate) clauses.

I'll take it now because it is my turn.
The paid mourners howled as if in grief.
I was expected to be seen and not heard when I was a little girl.

Turning this sentence around still requires a comma, even though it is a dependent clause, because it is an extreme contrast.

Although I have published articles, this is my first novel.

This is my first novel, although I have published articles.

It gets confusing when you add words like subordinate, participial and infinitive phrases, absolute phrases, nonessential appositive phrases and long prepositional phrases. Sometimes it confuses me.

Having set the table, she began to eat.
To get a hug, you must be willing to give a hug.
After dinner but before supper, I'll clean the andirons.
The water pouring off his body, Colin Firth's shirt clung to his chest like a second skin.

Introductory words, like well, yes, however, and so, should be followed by a comma.

Well, my mother does call me quite a bit.
Yes, she is nosy.
However, she is excited about having a published author in the family,
So, I talk to her.

And that is it for today. Well, continue this coma-inducing comma session next week. In the meantime, enjoy the weekend and may all your grammar problems be small ones. When in doubt, check it out.

No comments: