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If a sentence is starting with both an introductory element and a participial clause, where do I need to set the comma(s) appropriately?

Consider the following versions of an example sentence:

(A): Finally, having explained the consequences, we recommend bringing the car to the dealer's garage. (B): Finally having explained the consequences, we recommend bringing the car to the dealer's garage.

I do know that for short introductory elements (such as "Finally") the comma is not mandatory, but I am unsure if in the given example sentence it is at all possible. Personally, I prefer version A; however, this preference is driven by my gut feeling rather than by a specific formal rule.

So, maybe someone knows? I appreciate any help!

marked as duplicate by Ronan, user66974, tchrist, Hellion, Kristina Lopez Aug 14 '14 at 21:27

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  • I'm not sure the verb tenses agree in both parts of those sentences. – myLifeisanAbyss Aug 14 '14 at 13:09
  • I'd probably choose the weightier colon or dash after the ordering pragmatic marker 'finally' in A to ensure it's not mistaken for the adverb. It is even more distant / stand-apart from the content of the main clause than the participial clause. And I'd move the adverb 'finally' in B to between 'having' and 'explained'. Though I'm not exactly sure of who's supposed to be doing the explaining here. A clearer example would be appreciated. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 14 '14 at 13:34
  • I do not see the construction from this question in the supposed duplicate. Here, the question is not whether the comma is needed, but what meaning the comma adds to the sentence... both version are correct but they don't mean the same. – oerkelens Aug 15 '14 at 11:39
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There is a difference in meaning...

(A) means that you finally recommend something.

(B) means that you finally explained something.

  • I'd argue with B), respectfully. How do you put the focus on 'explained' there? – fuandon Aug 14 '14 at 13:24
  • @fuandon By reading "finally having explained" as one phrase. As in "Finally free, I could now remarry." - I agree that semantically it may be strange to read (B) like that. It makes little sense to accuse yourself of having been late in explaining something. – oerkelens Aug 14 '14 at 14:21
  • Yes that's true, and the example might be badly chosen in this respect. It was meant like: 1. The wheels might fall off. 2. You all might die. And finally, having explained the consequences, we recommend bringing the car to the dealer's garage. – user2051916 Aug 15 '14 at 8:39
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Unless finally is modifying having been..., then a comma is needed.

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I agree that the generally-accepted correct comma usage is A. There've been some cases in my own writing where I find sentences that seem to work without the comma after the introductory word, but I've yet to find an exception to the general rule of the Purdue OWL.

Introductory phrases also set the stage for the main action of the sentence, but they are not complete clauses. Phrases don't have both a subject and a verb that are separate from the subject and verb in the main clause of the sentence.

Barking insistently, Smokey got us to throw his ball for him.

(introductory participial phrase, main clause)

This sentence has both an introductory word and an introductory phrase.

Introductory words like however, still, furthermore, and meanwhile create continuity from one sentence to the next.

The coaches reviewed the game strategy. Meanwhile, the athletes trained on the Nautilus equipment.

The only thing I can find about omitting introductory commas comes from here.

Note: A comma is not always needed after short prepositional phrases or subordinate clauses, as long as leaving it out does not cause confusion for the reader. However, using a comma after even a short prepositional phrase or subordinate clause is never wrong, so if in doubt, go ahead and use it.


EDIT: Here's a source focusing on introductory words, or specifically in the case of words like "Finally", conjunctive adverbs.

Often the introductory adverb modifies just the verb, as does the word "often" in this sentence. When that is the case, a comma is usually not necessary, but sometimes the writer may prefer to use the comma for emphasis or to create a dramatic pause. Notice the different effects produced by including or omitting the comma:

Often the introductory adverb modifies just the verb, as does the word "often" in this sentence.

Often, the introductory adverb modifies just the verb, as does the word "often"in this sentence.

There is no unvarying rule for whether or not to use a comma after a conjunctive adverb. Consider the strength or weakness of the conjunctive adverb in relation to the clause that it modifies.

Source

tl;dr Both are technically correct. Since you can omit "Finally" from the sentence completely without changing the meaning, its relation to the 'having' clause is rather weak. Best to set it off with a comma, as in A).

  • "so if in doubt, go ahead and use it." — except when you change the meaning of the sentence... then using it or not depends on the intended meaning. – oerkelens Aug 14 '14 at 13:13
  • @oerkelens That's an important consideration, yes. Should always consider how the sentence sounds and what it actually means. And if your sentence starts to sound like Captain Kirk speaking then you've used too many commas. – fuandon Aug 14 '14 at 13:19
  • I think it's especially important in the case of this question, because the two sentences, (A) and (B), have a different meaning. – oerkelens Aug 14 '14 at 13:20

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