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"Running outdoors burns about five percent more calories than running on a treadmill, in part because there is greater wind resistance outdoors."

I was taught that you shouldn't put a comma before 'because' in a sentence, so why is a comma before 'in part because' acceptable in this sentence?

Thank you.

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    The problem may be that what you were taught was incorrect. Jan 22, 2015 at 23:18
  • So is the above sentence acceptable if 'in part' was taken out?
    – Nathan Wei
    Jan 22, 2015 at 23:41
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    Consider We were told to leave because the manager was angry with us and We were told to leave, because the manager was angry with us. The first sentence can mean that someone said "You have to leave because the manager is angry with you". The second has to mean Because the manager was angry with us, we were told to leave. So the use of the comma, far from being forbidden, may be very important. // With your example, omitting the comma would not be wise as it marks a sensible / needed pause. Beware all these old 'you shouldn'ts': they don't work in all cases. Jan 22, 2015 at 23:50
  • Commas break up the sentence into meaningful connected sections, making it easier for the reader to parse the meaning. If there's ever a reason to not use one, it's usually because it doesn't help, or in fact hinders, comprehension. Jun 24, 2016 at 13:18
  • @MaxWilliams but some prohibitions are fairly well expressed by regular rules, such as the rule that a subject should not be separated from its predicate by a single comma.
    – phoog
    Jun 24, 2016 at 16:21

2 Answers 2

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By including the comma in the example sentence, the author clearly packages "in part" with "because" instead of with "treadmill." Admittedly, the ambiguity isn't as great in your example as it may be in some others, but including the comma still seems to me to be at least somewhat helpful.

For a more problematic example, consider this one:

I want my estate to go to my housekeeper in part because she did so much to make my day-to-day life more pleasant.

Reading this sentence in a world where commas were not permitted before "because" or before "in part because," I would have no way of knowing (from the sentence) whether the whole estate is supposed to go to the housekeeper (for reasons that include, among others, the one stated) or whether part of the estate is supposed to go to the housekeeper (for the sole reason given). In a world where commas are permitted before "because" and before "in part because," the author can make his or her intention much clearer by adding a comma in the appropriate location:

I want my estate to go to my housekeeper, in part because she did so much to make my day-to-day life more pleasant.

if the housekeeper is supposed to get everything, and

I want my estate to go to my housekeeper in part, because she did so much to make my day-to-day life more pleasant.

if the housekeeper is supposed to get something.

(The statement might still be deemed ambiguous, since someone advocating on behalf of the housekeeper might argue that "housekeeper in part" is a self-contained phrase—in effect, "housekeeper-in-part"—and that the intention of the testator was to give all of the estate to the "housekeeper in part." This sort of complication explains why lawyers will always be with us.)

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  • Yay ! Lawyers !
    – Erik Kowal
    Jan 23, 2015 at 8:07
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I think the comma should go after in part. In part means not exclusively or partially,etc. So putting the comma here "in part, because says in this sentance, because the housekeeper made my life so pleasant is only one part or is just one reason why I want her to have my estate. In other words, that's not the "full" or the "only" reason. There are other reasons too.

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