Sign up ×
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.

In the sentence

What’s funny is Cat’s dry humour.

Wouldn’t it be better to put a comma after “funny”:

What’s funny, is Cat’s dry humour.

This question entails a (at the time of writing) heated discussion in the SO chat C++ lounge.

share|improve this question
Oh, and you misspelled "humor". :D – cHao Aug 2 '12 at 14:47
@cHao, That is how it is spelled in British English.… – JLG Aug 2 '12 at 14:52
The difference between a cat and a comma: a cat has claws at the end of its paws, and a comma is a pause at the end of a clause. – MετάEd Aug 2 '12 at 14:52
@JLG: I can't help that Brits have a glut of "U"s and have to get rid of them somehow. Somewhere there's poor children that can't read cause there aren't enough "U"s. Stop the waste, Brits! Think of the children! :) – cHao Aug 2 '12 at 15:00
The comma is spurious. This isn’t German. – tchrist Aug 2 '12 at 15:01

4 Answers 4

up vote 20 down vote accepted

No, it would not be better.

The reason is that it's a single clause, with "What's funny" as the subject of the verb ("is") and "Cat's dry humour" as the complement.

Never separate the subject from its verb with a comma.

share|improve this answer
+100 if I could. – Bob Aug 2 '12 at 17:49
@Bob, you can. (Not saying should, merely can.) Just click on "start a bounty" (just before first answer), click Next a few times, put in some excuse, etc., voilà. A few days later, award the bounty. See details at faq: bounty. – jwpat7 Aug 4 '12 at 19:43

A comma isn't necessary there.

"What's funny" is a noun clause. It's similar to, for instance, "what you need."

A loan is what you need.


Cat's dry humor is what's funny.

It's the same thing inverted:

What's funny is Cat's dry humor.

share|improve this answer

It was standard for much of Modern English history to use a comma to separate a complex subject (“What’s funny…”) from the rest of the sentence (“…is Cat’s dry humour”). This is in line with the purpose of punctuation in general—to indicate prosody. Many speakers actually do pause at that point in a sentence, so a comma seems only natural.

In the passages below, [,] denotes a comma which is present in the original text, but is widely (albeit arbitrarily) considered incorrect in contemporary English.

Treason against the United States[,] shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.

A well regulated Militia[,] being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms[,] shall not be infringed.

In short: it’s best avoided unless you’re intentionally writing in the style of the early 1800s.

share|improve this answer

The New Oxford Guide to Writing By Thomas S. Kane {1988} doesn't accept the mantra 'Never separate the subject from its verb with a comma' as being an inviolable edict:

The main elements of a sentence – the subject, verb and object – are not separated by commas except under unusual conditions [bolding mine]. Very occasionally when the subject is not a single word but a long construction, such as a [lengthy] noun clause, a comma may be put in at its end to signal the verb [ie make the reading easier]:

What makes the generation of the '60s different, is that it is largely inner-directed and uncontrolled by adult-doyens. [Time Magazine]

In such a sentence the comma between the subject and the verb may help readers to follow the grammar.

share|improve this answer
+1 not (just) for the quote, but for common sense and a bit of antiprescriptivism. IOW never say never – pazzo Apr 10 at 18:35
On the other hand, that comma makes no sense for me; it doesn't help at all. – Andrew Leach Sep 26 at 18:47

Your Answer


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.