4

They are not taking their team photograph until Friday at 7:30.

On my son’s punctuation test, he did not use a comma after photograph in the above sentence, and his teacher marked this “missing” comma as an error, claiming there needed to be a comma there.

Is there some rule that would explain the teacher’s position, or was it incorrectly marked incorrect?

  • No, why do you think there might need to be one there? – Kristina Lopez Oct 11 '13 at 22:25
  • This was on my son's punctuation test and he didn't put a comma after 'photograph' and the teacher marked it wrong. I've never heard/seen such a thing. – user53988 Oct 11 '13 at 22:32
  • 2
    Actually, I think if anywhere, there could be a comma after Friday, if at all, but I wonder why the teacher marked it wrong without the comma after photograph. Weird. – Kristina Lopez Oct 11 '13 at 22:36
  • @user53988 Sounds like a teacher who knows not what they teach. – tchrist Oct 12 '13 at 3:08
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    The reason for the question was an error on the part of a third party, which has been admitted. Thus, there is no basis for the question, and no chance it will help anyone in the future. – choster Oct 13 '13 at 4:57
2

I would say that there should definitely not be a comma there. A comma would give the implication that the words after the comma are 'not essential' or are 'additional information'.

But, in fact, the words "until Friday" are absolutely essential to the meaning of the sentence. There's a big difference between these two sentences:

They are not taking their team photograph.
They are not taking their team photograph until Friday.

I agree with the comment that there could be an optional comma after "Friday".

2

In

We are staying here until Friday.

there is no need for a 'breather' comma to help the reader. Is there a syntactic need or a sensible reason for inserting a comma there?

There possibly is – it depends on whether you want to emphasise the temporal adverbial or not.

We are staying here until Friday. is the unmarked, 'monotone' version – a simple statement of fact.

We are staying here, until Friday.

We are staying here – until Friday.

We are staying here. Until Friday.

progressively set off and increasingly emphasise the temporal adverbial.

Setting off a temporal modifier starting with 'until' after a negative statement gives an improbable dramatic change of direction to the sentence – a device that would only be used for such a dramatic effect.

I will not be firing any employees. Until Friday.

-1

"Until Friday" is a dependent clause, and the word "until" is the subordinating conjunction. Even though it is important information when considering the meaning of the sentence, it isn't necessary for the sentence to stand alone. "They are not taking their team photograph." Is an independent clause, it stands on it's own. "Until Friday" does not, it is dependent on the first half of the sentence. However, it should not need a comma in this instance, because it is at the later half of the sentence. If you moved it to the beginning of the sentence, it would need a comma. "Until Friday at 7:30, they will not be taking their team photograph." That sentence sounds like junk though, even though it is technically correct.

So the answer is no; there isn't anything wrong with it, because the subordinating conjunction / independent clause is at the end of the sentence. If it were at the beginning it would need a comma. However, some people still choose to use a comma in that instance.

The teacher wasn't completely wrong, because the comma can be used there, but she is wrong in marking it, because it isn't necessary, and it would interrupt the flow of the sentence.

  • A clause, either dependent or independent, has a subject and a predicate. In this context "until Friday" is a prepositional phrase. – Michael Owen Sartin Feb 1 '14 at 1:46

protected by tchrist Feb 9 '17 at 0:59

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