I am always confused whether I can leave the pronoun in or out after the comma.

Michael, Anthony, Scarlet, and Bill combed half the parking lot, but (do I need a pronoun they) couldn’t find the magician.

Is there a general rule on this? My tendency is to put "they" in this sentence. Other times I don't want to put a pronoun.

  • 2
    Not in this case you don't. You could use it, but it does sound cleaner without it. The comma is superfluous too, by the way. – Ricky Nov 18 '15 at 12:37
  • I've never learned to let go of these commas. I should probably become more acquainted with the rule (and) when I can break it. I was drilled into using them in grammar school. Now, it's more anxiety placement than anything. – ejw123 Nov 19 '15 at 18:52

If you keep the comma, you should use the "they"; if you delete the comma, you shouldn't use the "they." The reason for this is that when two clauses are joined by a coordinating conjunction (in this case "but"), two independent clauses (which the addition of the "they" creates) are separated by a comma. However, if it is a compound predicate (without the "they"), no comma is needed because one subject is being used for the two verbs.

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  • So either "Michael, Anthony, Scarlet, and Bill combed half the parking lot but couldn’t find the magician." OR "Michael, Anthony, Scarlet, and Bill combed half the parking lot, but they couldn’t find the magician." – rajah9 Dec 18 '15 at 15:38

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