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I saw this: "Don't you wish your girlfriend was grammatically correct like me?"

I'm wondering should it be: "Don't you wish your girlfriend was grammatically correct​, like me?"

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Some people might say it's not the lack of a comma, but lack of the subjunctive that causes the problem. "Don't you wish your girlfriend were grammatically correct​ like me?" –  FumbleFingers Apr 3 '12 at 17:12
    
Or possibly like I (nobody would ever say it, but I think it's technically correct). –  TimLymington Apr 3 '12 at 17:15
    
Can't believe I missed the was to were, I did however catch the me to I... Haha, now the sentence reads: "Don't you wish (that) your girlfriend were dramatically correct, like I (am)." –  Bob Joe Apr 3 '12 at 17:18
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dramatically correct? –  JLG Apr 3 '12 at 19:22
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3 Answers

up vote 0 down vote accepted

I found this comma guidance online:

Use a comma near the end of a sentence to separate contrasted coordinate elements or to indicate a distinct pause or shift.

  • He was merely ignorant, not stupid.
  • The chimpanzee seemed reflective, almost human.
  • You're one of the senator's close friends, aren't you?
  • The speaker seemed innocent, even gullible.

That guidance suggests that a comma might be appropriate. Moreover, the same website goes on to say:

Don't put a comma after the main clause when a dependent (subordinate) clause follows it (except for cases of extreme contrast).

  • Incorrect: She was late for class, because her alarm clock was broken.

  • Incorrect: The cat scratched at the door, while I was eating.

  • Correct: She was still quite upset, although she had won the Oscar.
    (This comma use is correct because it is an example of extreme contrast.)

Assuming the quip is meant to imply that "your girlfriend" is not grammatically correct (unlike the speaker), that could be a case of "extreme contrast." However, judging by the omitted comma, maybe the contrast isn't so extreme after all.

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It’s well-known that punctuation can change meaning. A classic example of this is the sentence “A woman without her man is nothing.” With different punctuation, we have, “A woman: without her, man is nothing.” – with antonymous meaning.

In your example, if you put the comma, it means that you, too, are grammatical. If you don’t put the comma, it means that you, too, wish that his girlfriend were grammatical.

Also, I think we all understand that “was” (at least among Americans) is a crude / lazy but common form of the subjunctive “were”, so whether it gets changed to “were” is irrelevant for your question, but since it WAS changed, I used “were” herein.

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There is another theory of comma usage, which says that a comma is used to mark a particular kind of intonation dip, which -- since it is an intonation -- is used in English speech to differentiate constituents.

This theory is illustrated by the remarks on comma use by Lewis Thomas in his classic short essay "Notes On Punctuation":

The commas are the most useful and usable of all the stops. It is highly important to put them in place as you go along. If you try to come back after doing a paragraph and stick them in the various spots that tempt you you will discover that they tend to swarm like minnows in all sorts of crevices whose existence you hadn't realized and before you know it the whole long sentence becomes immobilized and lashed up squirming in commas. Better to use them sparingly, and with affection, precisely when the need for each one arises, nicely, by itself.

From this theory one may derive this advice:

If you would use that intonation in speaking, write a comma. Otherwise don't.

The "Otherwise" cases often include short idiomatic reduced phrases like don't or like me. Alternatively, these phrases may be separated, as needed, for dramatic effect, like this.

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