I'm kind of confused as to how I should punctuate the following sentence:

A land as old as time and whose history defies any simple description.

The author added a comma before "and", but i'm not convinced. Can "whose history defies any simple description." stand on its own as a sentence?

2 Answers 2


The comma's good to make the meaning clear. "A land as old as time and..." leads the reader to expect another comparison ("A land as old as time and eternity"; "a land as old as time and space"...). There are two phrases here, and they need a little separation.

Which leads me to ask whether the and is necessary, and if

A land as old as time, whose history defies any simple description

isn't clearer and simpler?

(You do need the comma here to indicate that it's the history of a land, not time.)


I think this is a case where a comma isn't needed (grammatically speaking), but a speaker would introduce a slight pause when saying it out loud.

You're right that "and whose history defies any simple description." isn't a full sentence that can stand on its own.
But neither is "A land as old as time(,) and whose history defies any simple description.", as the main clause is still missing a verb. Regardless of the comma.

Either way, this is only half a sentence, meant to add further description about the land that the speaker is talking about. Grammatically not a full sentence, but allowed in terms of verbal speech.

Was this perchance spoken by a character in the narrative, as opposed to a description offered by the story's narrator?

It's often allowed to be grammatically imperfect in cases where you're quoting a character, as you might be quoting them ad verbatim. If they made a grammatical mistake, you'd have to add that mistake in the quote.

I met a caveman. He was holding a candle. I took the candle from his hand.
"You no take candle!", he shouted at me.

"You no take candle!" isn't grammatically sound, but if that's what the caveman said, it's how it will be quoted.

  • I'm reminded of the song "Tale as Old as Time" from "Beauty and the Beast". It's almost entirely constructed of phrases like this, with no verbs in most of the stanzas.
    – Barmar
    Jul 30, 2015 at 19:15

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