Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I've got a couple questions:

  • Should I always put comma between condition and consequence parts, like in the following sentence:

    If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask.

  • Should I always put comma in the sentences similar to the following (I may be wrong, but I think it's called antithesis):

    It rains, but children continue to play football.

share|improve this question
1  
If you speak out the first sentence, you'd pause in between "questions" and "don't", so a comma is definitely warranted. For the second, "It's raining, but..." sounds better to my ears at least, but your construction is not ungrammatical. Yes, the comma ought to be there, too. –  user730 Dec 14 '10 at 13:50
    
J. M.: I can remember that someone on EFnet mentioned that for example It's always raining in London. (present progressive) may be used to emphasize one's irritation about a phenomenon which happens often. –  Yasir Arsanukaev Dec 14 '10 at 14:15
    
J. M.: None argues, please, do put your comment as an answer so that I accept it :] –  Yasir Arsanukaev Dec 14 '10 at 14:25

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Should I always put comma between condition and consequence parts, like in the following sentence?
If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask.

You should. In the example you provided, "If you have any questions" is a dependent clause, and as such, it must be followed by a comma since it precedes the independent clause.

Should I always put comma in the sentences similar to the following (I may be wrong, but I think it's called antithesis)?
 It rains, but children continue to play football.

Yes, you should. In the example you gave, "children continue to play football" is an independent clause. Whenever "but" (or any other conjunction) is used to join two independent clauses, it should be preceded by a comma.

share|improve this answer
    
Are you sure both It rains and but children continue to play football. are independent clauses? There are two connected depended and independed clauses appropriately delimited by a comma: Jim studied in the Sweet Shop for his chemistry quiz, but it was hard to concentrate because of the noise. –  Yasir Arsanukaev Dec 14 '10 at 16:32
1  
It rains is an independent clause. children continue to play football is an independent clause. but children continue to play football is a dependent clause because of the included but. In the same way, it was hard to concentrate because of the noise is independent. However, but it was hard to concentrate because of the noise is a dependent clause. Rightly, an independent clause and a dependent clause should be delimited by a comma, but this is equivalent to two independent clauses connected with a conjunction preceded by a comma. –  Jimi Oke Dec 14 '10 at 16:41
2  
I had an English teacher who promoted the idea that, for very short sentences, one may sometimes omit the comma between independent clauses. The main example given was "Live and learn", which flows better than "Live, and learn". I think the similar sentences "I work and I get by" and "I try but I fail" might also be acceptable. While trying to come up with examples, I noticed that sometimes the alternate meaning of "but" as used in "If you would but listen to me..." sometimes caused some difficulty in parsing the sentence without a comma, although "I try but I fail" seems to avoid this. –  Mitch Schwartz Dec 14 '10 at 21:31
    
Mitch, your teacher was right. I try to avoid unnecessary comma use myself. Back in the day, I wasn't taught to use a comma before a conjunction. In current English, though, "I try but I fail" may be pushing it. I would use a comma. One will find, though, that in a lot of informal writing, many of these comma rules go unobserved. However, in the example "If you would but listen to me...", a comma is not needed because "but" functions here as an adverb, not a conjunction! –  Jimi Oke Dec 14 '10 at 22:18
1  
@Mitch: Sorry for the late response, but thanks for the clarification. (I actually paused before using a comma in the previous sentence!) I do you see your point now. Apologies for the rather unnecessary lecture! –  Jimi Oke Dec 15 '10 at 9:32

(Due to insistence)

If you speak out the first sentence, you'd pause in between "questions" and "don't", so a comma is definitely warranted. (If you have any questions, [pause] please don't hesitate to ask.)

For the second sentence, "It's raining, but..." sounds better to my ears at least, but your construction is not ungrammatical. Yes, the comma ought to be there, too.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.