I have a sentence that is constructed the same as this one:

She bought food for a black cat, a white horse, a red dog, and a green frog.

However, I feel the comma does not give enough pause for what I want to convey. Instead of a series for which the comma is used, I would like more separation between each item when the list is read aloud. That is, each item is more important on its own than in the series.

So I wrote this instead:

She bought food for a black cat, for a white horse, for a red dog, and for a green frog.

I use for (from the conjunction mnemonic FANBOYS) in addition to the comma to create the pause I want. Is this so incorrect? Should I just stick with the commas, or is there a better way to represent a longer pause?

  • 4
    I have no idea what the significance of the word "FANBOYS" is in this context. Care to elaborate? Jul 16, 2013 at 5:17
  • 3
    "for" of FANBOYS refers to the coordinating conjunction for (He ate, for he was hungry), not the preposition for (The food is for you). Jul 16, 2013 at 5:45
  • 1
    FANBOYS is a mnemonic device for for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so. Jul 16, 2013 at 5:51
  • @SimonKuang From where? How is that useful? Seems too bizarre. No native speaker has ever been taught that way. Is this some ESL thing?
    – tchrist
    Jul 16, 2013 at 15:55
  • 1
    @tch American schools. Jul 16, 2013 at 18:56

1 Answer 1


Your replacement sentence is perfectly grammatical, but quite formal. It sounds like you're using repetition as a rhetorical device, rather than something somebody would say naturally.

But to be honest, your initial sentence comes across as a little unnatural too. Why mention the colours of the animals? Why is this woman buying food for a cat, rather than the cat or her cat? If you recast the initial sentence in a more natural way, the ambiguity disappears:

She bought food for her cat, horse, dog and frog.

Does that help?

  • What’s a dog and frog?
    – tchrist
    Jul 16, 2013 at 15:37
  • 2
    There's no such thing as a dog and frog; but the sentence doesn't suggest there is. It simply refers to the woman's four separate animals. Jul 16, 2013 at 15:42
  • Add a comma then.
    – tchrist
    Jul 16, 2013 at 15:48
  • 4
    Not necessary; an Oxford comma isn't used so much in ordinary english (BE) these days. Jul 16, 2013 at 15:53
  • 3
    Clearly you use the Oxford comma normally. But this isn't relevant to the OP's question at all. Jul 16, 2013 at 15:57

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