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Advanced English
Lesson 15 - Weather
Grammar

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The Use of the Comma in English

In this lesson we will explain the use of the comma in English. This can be a confusing concept for students learning English as well as for native English speakers.

Elements in a Series

We use the comma to separate elements in a series of three or more things. The comma before the conjunction ("and" or "or") is optional, but I recommend that you use it to avoid confusing the reader.

I like to eat apples, bananas, and oranges.
Do you like to read, watch TV, or play video games in your free time?

Two or More Coordinate Adjectives

The comma is used to separate two or more coordinate adjectives that describe the same noun. Coordinate adjectives are adjectives that have the same status. To determine if the adjectives are "coordinate adjectives," try to write the word "and" between the words or try to change the order of the words and see if the sentence still makes sense.

He is a funny, cheerful man.
They are coordinate adjectives because it makes sense if you change the order (He is a cheerful, funny man.), and you can connect the words with the word and (He is a funny and cheerful man.)

She is a little old lady.
These are not coordinate adjectives because you cannot change the order (She is an old little lady.), nor can you connect the adjectives with the word and (She is a little and old lady.)

Direct Quotes

A comma is used to separate a direct quote from the rest of the sentence if the quote is a complete sentence.

Jill said, "Let's go camping this weekend."

"Stop," the police officer shouted, "or I'll shoot."

He said that his mother was "the best mom in the world."
(A comma is not used because the quote is not a complete sentence.)

Two Independent Clauses

A comma and a conjunction (and, but, for, nor, yet, or, so) are used to connect two independent clauses. Independent clauses are parts of a sentence that could be independent sentences (they contain a subject and a verb).

He went to the store, but it was closed.
The two clauses could be independent sentences ("He went to the store." and "It was closed.")

He went to the store and bought fruit.
The two clauses could not be independent sentences ("He went to the store." is independent but "bought fruit" isn't independent. It doesn't have a subject.)

Introductory Elements

The comma is used to separate introductory elements from the rest of the sentence. Many introductory clauses begin with the words after, although, as, because, if, since, when, and while. Also, the words yes, however, and well are introductory.

If you go to New York, you need to see the Statue of Liberty.
Although it was sunny, the air was very cold.

Nonessential Elements

We use a comma to separate clauses, phrases, and words that are not essential to the meaning of the sentence (like the nonrestrictive clauses that we studied in the grammar lesson from lesson 14).

Laura, who is in my class, gave an outstanding presentation.
His goal, to learn English, is very important for his job.
Learning English, however, can take a long time.

Contrast Elements

The comma is used to separate elements that contrast with the sentence. The "Tag Questions" that we studied in lesson 4 are considered contrast elements (see the second example below).

The car was red, not blue.
You didn't go to the party, did you?

Geographic Names, Dates, Titles

The comma is used to separate parts of a geographic name (for example, the name of the city from the name of the state or country).

He lives in San Francisco, California.
She visited Bogota, Colombia.

In the United States we use a comma to separate the month and day from the year. In Europe, however, they write the date with the day first and they do not use a comma.

June 23, 2012 (United States)
23 June 2012 (Europe)

A comma is used to separate a title from the name of a person.

William H. Johnson, MD
Sarah T. Fredericks, PhD

Comma Use Guide in .pdf

 

Practice
If the sentence (with its use of the comma) is correct, leave the space blank. If it is not correct, write it correctly.

examples

We traveled to Houston, Texas.

I left it blank because the sentence is correct.

I like to eat pizza with cheese, pepperoni and, mushrooms.

1. Vanessa said, "I need to give Adrian the book."
   
     

2. It's a spicy delicious sauce.
   
   

3. She gave the present to Don not Ron.
   
   

4. He was born on July, 10 2005.
   
   

5. Pam works in an office, doesn't she?
   
   

6. We like to go to the movies, and eat popcorn.
   
   

7. Kelly said that she would see Frank next week.
   
   

8. When we go to Gino's Restaurant I always order the lasagna.
   
   

9. We will have spaghetti salad and bread for dinner.
   
   

10. Mrs. Gomez who is retiring at the end of school year is an outstanding teacher.
   
   

11. Tom finished her homework but Ronda couldn't finish hers.
   
   

12. The name of the doctor is "Larry Wilson, MD."
   
   

 

Find the Mistake

Instructions
Find the errors in the sentences.  Write the sentences correctly.

example
She are a student. --> She is a student.

1. A huricane is a very strong tropical storm.
   
   

2. Typhoons occur in the Pacific Ocean.
   
   

3. Hurricanes, tornados and, floods can cause a lot of damage.
   
   

4. A draught is a long period of time with no rain.
   
   

5. If you are in a thunderstorm stay inside the house.
   
   

 

Study English Abroad

You will find more information about studying English abroad and inexpensive alternatives to studying abroad in the Study Abroad area of Passport to English.

Study Abroad Information
Why study abroad?
What to look for in a study abroad program
Types of Programs
Alternatives to Study Abroad
Home Exchange

 

Recommend Passport to English to your friends!

 

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