appologies if this is a very simple question, but your help would be appreciated.

I asked a question a couple of days ago regarding the usage of comma within sentences. I have been reading various rules regarding comma usage but still somtimes have a bit of difficulty knowing exactly where they should be placed.

In the following sentence would sombody be kind enough to give a brief overview regarding why each individual comma has been used.

Sometimes, though, a simple subject can be more than one word, even an entire clause.

I'm under the impression the first two are used to introduce introductory elements. I would also guess that "A simple subject can be more than one word" is the independant clause. But why is this clause seperated from the final element "even an entire clause".

Once again apologies if this is basic.

Many thanks.

  • 1
    Somebody's been giving you the wrong rules. Commas represent intonation contours -- i.e, you can hear them in speech. So, in each one of the three commas in your example sentence, there was a Mid-Low-High-Mid intonation contour; the same kind one hears when counting: "seventy-two, seventy-three, seventy-four, ..." Never mind trying to figure out the grammar; commas aren't grammar -- they're pronunciation cues. If you hear one, write it; if you don't hear it don't write it. Commented Nov 20, 2014 at 19:10

2 Answers 2


The final element "even an entire clause" appears to be an appositive phrase, and as such is correctly separated off by a comma. But in fact it does not modify the noun phrase (one word) that precedes it.

Rather, it should be understood as an ellipted alternative predicate. The expanded sentence becomes:

Sometimes, though, a simple subject can be more than one word; it can even be an entire clause.

A true appositive would modify "word", as in the following example:

Sometimes, though, a simple subject can be more than one word, even a very long one.

In summary, the comma is certainly needed here before "even an entire clause". But I find the ellipsis somewhat problematic, and would rewrite the sentence as two independent clauses joined by a semi-colon, as above.


The commas do actually have rules-many more than most people imagine, and these are misused more often than not. Commas replace an "and" in a sentence. (three items in a list- first two have a comma and the third just an "and"-the comma means "and") Commas show when things are out of place like adverbs (they answer the questions: when , where, why, how, and under what condition) that belong after a verb or joined to a verb and not before. Commas also show extra information that adds to or contrasts the main clause. If you remember these three,(notice an adverbial that tells under what condition) you will find success.

Sometimes, though, a simple subject can be more than one word, even an entire clause.

So in your example, the "though" interrupts the main clause. "Sometimes" is an adverb out of place and would have needed a comma, but since there was an interrupter immediately following, we used the two around the interrupter only. The last part is a phrase the redefines more than one word, so it is an appositive. Normally, subordinate phrases at the end function as adverbs, and if they are at the end, they don't need a comma. This phrase, though, functions as an appositive phrase and, thus, does need one.

  • Commas seem to have conflicting usage 'rules'. An answer without supporting references is not much use. Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 11:37

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