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Mastering English Grammar > Commas > Flashcards

Flashcards in Commas Deck (72)
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1

What are the four basic circumstances that require commas?

  1. Before conjunctions joining independent clauses
  2. Between adjacent parallel items
  3. Around parenthetical elements
  4. In sequences where needed to prevent misreadings

2

In the forties girls studied home nursing and boys took shop

In the forties girls studied home nursing, and boys took shop

(The comma prevents boys from looking like the second object of the girls' study. It prevents the conjunction from seeming to connect smaller sentence elements.)

Rule: Use commas before conjunctions joining independent clauses.

3

He never worked for his father had left him a fortune

He never worked, for his father had left him a fortune.

(The comma prevents the misreading of for his father as a prepositional phrase. It prevents the conjunction from seeming to connect smaller sentence elements.)

Rule: Use commas before conjunctions joining independent clauses.

 

4

I have now seen all Shakespeare's major plays performed but Hamlet remains for me the most gripping.

I have now seen all Shakespeare's major plays performed, but Hamlet remains for me the most gripping.

(The comma prevents the misreading of but as a preposition. It prevents the conjunction from seeming to connect smaller sentence elements.)

Rule: Use commas before conjunctions joining independent clauses.

5

What are the two exceptions to the rule that requires commas to be placed before coordinating conjunctions joining independent clauses?

  1. a SEMICOLON should generally replace the comma when the conjunction joins heavily punctuated clauses;
  2. the conjunction needs no preceding punctuation if the clauses are short and closely related and there is no chance of misreading.

6

On the New York Stock Exchange yesterday the industrials were up 9.5 the tranpsorts were down 4.35 and the utilities were unchanged

On the New York Stock Exchange yesterday the industrials were up 9.5, the transports were down 4.35, and the utilities were unchanged.

Rule: Use a a comma BETWEEN ADJACENT PARALLEL ITEMS

In a series of coordinate words, phrase, or clauses in which a conjunction precedes only the final item, a comma should follow every item except the last. 

7

The intelligent conscientious worker

The intelligent, conscientious worker

Rule: Use commas between adjacent parallel items. Commas should separate consecutive COORDINATE ADJECTIVES modifying the same noun.

intelligent and conscientious are parallel here: they are coequal adjectives qualifying the noun worker. (Intelligent not qualify the unit made up of the second adjective and the noun).

8

the average city dweller

old broken bucket

the average city dweller 

old broken bucket

 

No commas is required because the modifiers are non-coordinate: average modifies the unit made up of the second adjective and the noun. 

The adjectives in both examples are not parallel; rather, they work together to modify the nouns.

9

Which adjectives rarely coordinate with other adjectives?

Adjectives denoting color, age, size, or material are rarely coordinate with other adjectives.

10

What is a good test to determine weather adjectives are coordinate?

Ask yourself if they sound IDIOMATIC if you reverse their order or read and  between them.

the delicate, subtle flavor

the subtle, delicate flavor

the delicate and subtle flavor

11

steady but hardly rapid progress

steady, but hardly rapid, progress

 

Treat the contrasting adjective phrase but hardly rapid as a parenthetical (not a parallel) element and thus requires enclosing commas.

When parenthetical elements are not involved, a comma should not separate a modifier from the word it modifies.

12

What function do pairs of commas serve?

They mark the words they set off as outside of the mainstream of the sentence--as either

  1. nonessential
  2. disruptive of the flow

Enclosing commas help readers bridge the gap between structually related parts that come before and after.

 

13

The current five-year expansion program, culminating in approximately 100 building materials supermarts by the end of fiscal 1980 is continuing on schedule.

The current five-year expansion program, culminating in approximately 100 building materials supermarts by the end of fiscal 1980, is continuing on schedule.

The nonessential culminating phrase separates subject (program) from verb (is continuing) and the single commas in the original only reinforces the separation; whereas, a second comma after 1980 brings the two together by setting off the intervening words.

14

A mother, willing to sacrifice her baby for a good cause, is a rarity.

A mother willing to sacrifice her baby for a good cause is a rarity.

 

Do not enclose the restrictive adjective phrase with commas; it is essential to the meaning of the sentence.

RULE: Commas do not belong around a modifier that DEFINES or RESTRICTS the meaning of the word it modifies

15

Which modifiers are most likely to raise restrictive-nonrestrictive questions?

  • Appositives
  • Adjective Phrases/Clauses
    • Participial Phrases
    • Relative Clauses

16

The chipmunk or ground squirrel hibernates in winter.

The chipmunk, or ground, squirrel hibernates in winter.

Rule: Appositives consisting of a synonym preceded by or are invariably NONRESTRICTIVE.

17

Punctuate and the rule governing...

Stonehenge that mysterious assemblage of giant stones was the next stop on the tour.

Stonehenge, that mysterious assemblage of giant stones, was the next stop on the tour.

RULE: Appositives that follow proper nouns are almost invariably NONRESTRICTIVE

18

Puncuate and ID the governing rule:

The Yucatan which offers beaches as well as ruins is a popular vacation area

The Yucatan, which offers beaches as well as ruins, is a popular vacation area.

RULE: Modifiers (as in the relative clause here) or appositives that follow proper nouns are almost always NONRESTRICTIVE.

Proper nouns usually retain their identity no matter how you describe them.

19

Punctuate and ID the governing rule:

The Woolworth Tower located in downtown Manhattan was once the tallest building in the world.

The Woolworth Tower, located in downtown Manhattan, was once the tallest building in the world.

Rule: Modifiers that follow proper nouns, such as the participial phrase here, are almost always NONRESTRICTIVE and must be set off with commas.

Consider: proper nouns usually retain their identity however you described them, so modifiers are generally non-defining.  

20

Punctuate and ID the governing rule:

I remember Judy Garland singing "Over the Rainbow."

I remember Judy Garland singing "Over the Rainbow."

No commas needed because the adjective phrase (singing...) LIMITS the noun to a particular circumstance.

21

ID the rules governing punctuation of adverbial phrases and clauses.

  • Adverbial phrases/clauses can be RESTRICTIVE or NONRESTRIVE, but their punctuation depends on their position within a sentence.
    • INTRODUCTORY:
      • Long adverbial phrases/clauses that precede the subject of a sentence must be followed by a comma regardless of R/NR.
    •  DISRUPTIVE:
      • Commmas set off disruptively placed adverbial phrases/clause regardless of R/NR
    • END OF SENTENCES
      • R/NR rule applies to adverbial modifiers at the end of sentences.
    •  

22

I woke up this morning at exactly seven when my neighbor began playing the trumpet.

I woke up this morning at exactly seven, when my neighbor began playing the trumpet.

Since the exact time of waking is stated, the when clause provides only supplementary information.

RULE: The (adverbial) when clause is nonrestrictive and must be set off with a comma.

23

I woke up this morning when my neighbor began playing the trumpet.

I woke up this morning when my neighbor began playing the trumpet.

(Here the [adverbial] when clause DEFINES the moment of waking. It is restrictive and should not be set off with a comma.)

24

Is the adverbial phrase here restrictive or nonrestrictive?

Please be on time as you promised.

Nonrestrictive. 

Please be on time, as you promised.

25

We ran all the way to grandmother's house over the bridge and through the woods.

We ran all the way to grandmother's house, over the bridge and through the woods.

Nonrestrictive adverbial phrase.

26

Please do as you promised.

Please do as you promised.

Restrictive modifying adverbial clause defines the request; no comma should be used.

27

How does a comma introducing the adverbial clause affect the meaning of the following sentence?

A talent scout discovered her in 1959 (,) when she was performing in a small club in Chicago.

Without the comma the when clause limits the time of the discovery to that period during 1959 when the entertainer was working at the Chicago club; with the comma the clause merely gives supplementary information about the entertainer's place of employment when she was discovered.

28

What does a comma do to the meaning of the following sentence?

Our capital investments began to pay off (,) most dramatically after we automated the Hudson plant. 

The comma makes the worthwhile return on the investment the point of the sentence; omitting the comma shifts the emphasis to a particularly successful investment.

29

How does a comma affect meaning in...

I also read the novel (,) because a friend had recommended it.

The comma marks the reason for reading the novel incidental; left unpunctuated, the sentence primarily concerns the reason for reading it.

When a comma does not separate a positive verb from a clause or phrases introduced by since, because, or the like, the emphasis is on the explanation the phrase or clause contains.

BUT when the explanation follows a negative verb, the absence of punctuation leaves the sentence ambiguous.

30

ID the problem and revise:

We did not lose the contract because of our references from former employers.

Ambiguous: Does the sentence mean that our references kept us from losing the contract or that we lost the contract for some other reason than our references?

Instead, use a positive verb and but the not before the explanation:

I was not because of our references from former employers that we lost the contract.

RULE: When a comma does not separate a positive verb from a clause or phrases introduced by since, because, or the like, the emphasis is on the explanation the phrase or clause contains.

BUT

When the explanation follows a negative verb, the absence of punctuation leaves the sentence ambiguous.