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"There was something oppressive in this kind and gentle, but at the same time sly and cunning, glance; people were helpless under the spell of the powerful will which could be felt in his whole being."

Why would it particularly be in the place before glance and after cunning "..and cunning, glance;"

It seems as if it shouldn't be there. To me that is. But what do I know? Or technically would this form would be correct? --> "To me that is, but what do i know?" or "To me that is..but what do i know?"

I think I may need to brush up on my mechanics.

Thank you in advance.

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If you remove the phrase between the commas, you'll see that the remaining sentence is still correct:

There was something oppressive in this kind and gentle glance; people were helpless under the spell of the powerful will which could be felt in his whole being.

The phrase between the commas modifies the description of the glance (specifically, they provide a description which contrasts against the first part of the sentence); speak the original sentence aloud, and think of the phrase "but at the same time sly and cunning" as a brief aside.

  • Interesting, would using the commas in the same way refer to only the use of contrast? And also, what is your suggestion with my third line? "To me that is.." – rhondyharrisbitch Dec 4 '14 at 22:02
  • I don't think that contrast is necessarily required for that usage of commas but, now that you mention it, I can't think of a good example where the phrase within the commas compliments the preceding phrase. I'd write the third sentence as "To me, that is; but what do I know?" However, I think that's more a style choice, and less of a grammatical one. I'm sorry I can't give you a more concrete answer. – Liesmith Dec 4 '14 at 22:19
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    To add a bit: they are parenthetical commas and used for parenthetical clauses where one could perhaps also use parentheses. They provide an additional thought. A non-contrasting example would be "She was a good, indeed a fantastic, player". They tend to be less disruptive to the eye than parentheses (like these) or the parenthetical use of the dash—like this—which is good or bad depending on how much the parenthetical clause should stand out, and how likely it is to be confused with other uses of the comm. – Jon Hanna Dec 5 '14 at 3:13

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