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While writing an essay the other day, I was curious about how to correctly phrase a sentence such as the one below: "From dogs, to cats and fish, owning a pet can allow for a multitude of mental, physical, and emotional benefits."

Is the grammar in this sentence correct? I am most interested in finding the correct comma placement in a phrase such as "from x to y and z," in which x, y, and z are not necessarily nouns. I recognize that I could change the phrase to "from x to y to z."

Any help would be appreciated.

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2 Answers 2

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This "from to" formulation is wrong, because the from-to construction indicates 2 extremes and can’t really be used to denote a list in this fashion. "From dogs and cats to fish" is more acceptable.

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    I think she could say "from dogs to cats to fish." Nothing wrong with that. But if she wants to use commas, I'd add the extra comma: "from dogs, to cats, to fish."
    – ewormuth
    Aug 9, 2015 at 1:14
  • "From x to y to z" is correct for the route joining x to z, where y is a waypoint. In the animals case, there is no obvious order in the list. However, If you another noun to the list, it gives "from dogs to cats to snakes to fish" that one may use if the objective is to emphasize the variation.
    – Graffito
    Aug 9, 2015 at 1:27
  • Graffito, do you have a reference for your idea that "the from-to constructions indicates 2 extremes"?
    – ewormuth
    Aug 9, 2015 at 1:30
  • @Graffito - from A to Z is a classic example of this use, from the beginning to the end. It can be used as a waypoint, but that does not make sense in the list of animals.
    – Mousey
    Aug 9, 2015 at 1:34
  • I understand that "from A to Z" is correct, but "from A to B to C" is also correct.
    – ewormuth
    Aug 9, 2015 at 1:38
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To avoid this comma conundrum you might want to rewrite the sentence: "Whether you own a dog, cat, or fish, owning a pet provides many mental, physical and emotional benefits."

I've removed "can allow" because it's not good English. Multitude is unnecessarily wordy, and mental emotional doesn't make sense.

In the future, if you face these kinds of things, consider rewriting the sentence...that usually solves the problems. Bad writing always needs justification; good writing speaks for itself.

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