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This question already has an answer here:

I am confused about whether one should put a comma before an "and" which is being used after a list of items containing at least one other "and".

I don't use the Oxford comma, and I feel it's not necessary to put a comma before an "and" which is before the last item. I do know that if one item has an "and" in it, then we have to put a comma before the "and" to clear any ambiguity. But I am confused about a particular sentence which is mentioned below:

I will certainly go to university with a more motivated and mature attitude and contribute to its multicultural environment.

Here, I don't think a comma is necessary before the "and" which is before "contribute", as there is no ambiguity. So should I put a comma or not? If I do not put one, is it grammatically incorrect?

marked as duplicate by Drew, Misti, Chenmunka, Centaurus, tchrist Mar 13 '15 at 0:31

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Your question isn't about a list of items.

The second 'and' does not add an item to a list. Instead it joins two phrases:

  • certainly go to university with a more motivated and mature attitude
  • contribute to its multicultural environment

Each of these phrases contains a verb and an object. (The 'will' part of each verb is extracted out to the beginning, which makes the phrases a bit less obvious.)

I contend that you would make it easier to read, and include a pause for reading aloud, by following the convention of adding a comma between phrases, so include the comma before "and contribute."

You have a list of two adjectives earlier in the sentence: the adjectives are motivated and mature. As there are only two items, never use an Oxford comma (also known as a serial comma.)

You might prefer to write the sentence as two clauses, so you repeat the subject, and you make the logic more clear. This may make it easier to make a judgement about the comma.

I will certainly go to university with a more motivated and mature attitude, and I will contribute to its multicultural environment.

  • It's worth noting that I learned in school that a sentence-joining "and" should come with a comma anyway – shadowtalker Mar 11 '15 at 18:36
  • @ssdecontrol There are other questions about that on ELU. One popular answer says that the comma is always used: english.stackexchange.com/a/30519/36727 However another site says "Some writers omit the comma if the clauses are both quite short: Example: I paint and he writes." grammarbook.com/punctuation/commas.asp – Qsigma Mar 11 '15 at 18:49
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The sample sentence:

I will certainly go to university with a more motivated and mature attitude and contribute to its multicultural environment.

In this case, there is no valid use of the Oxford comma because there is no list (there are only two items and the Oxford comma is relevant at 3+ items). Inserting a comma before the bold and would be a comma splice error, which is itself a style discussion; different people have different tolerances and this fits in the gray area.

If the preceding clause were a list (3+ items), regardless of whether it uses the Oxford comma, things change:

I will certainly go to university with a more motivated, open-minded[,] and mature attitude, and contribute to its multicultural environment.

This is because the clauses are now more independent, so the comma splice is more permissible, though I'd still consider it awkward. Here is a better phrasing of that version of the sentence, which also works fine without the extra word I added to create the list:

I will certainly go to university with a more motivated[, open-minded] and mature attitude, and I will contribute to its multicultural environment.

  • But the question isn't about the Oxford comma, but about different coordinations: I'm going fishing with Anne and Bob and riding with Colin. // We've just finished the soup and croutons and John's cooking. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 11 '15 at 17:55
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    You are correct. I've removed that chunk and, over the course of a few edits, added a more apt answer. During this time, @Qsigma gave pretty much the same answer. Gotta love mid-air collisions. – Adam Katz Mar 11 '15 at 18:27
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    @AdamKatz: a comma splice would be if you replaced the second "and" with a comma. I don't think anyone's advocating that. As it is, we have two clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction, which is precisely what a coordinating conjunction is supposed to be used for. Adding a comma before said conjunction doesn't somehow invalidate it. – Marthaª Mar 11 '15 at 18:49

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