first time on this side of the StackExchange.

Quick question:

My dream is to code a chess game, and then have the AI I developed checkmate me legitimately.


My dream is to code a chess game, and then have the AI I developed legitimately checkmate me.

Also, is that comma okay to add pacing to the sentence?

  • Both seems to be accepted. I, being old school, prefer the first. The second sounds hopelessly awkward to me, but you see that construction everywhere these days. The comma seems wrong to me but in informal contexts, for pacing as you say, it might be acceptable.
    – phoog
    Mar 5 '16 at 2:39
  • Pacing is probably not the best reason to use punctuation marks. Punctuation is a matter of style, not grammar, but many style guides recommend separating conjoined independent clauses with a comma. Adding a comma here will lead many readers to expect an independent clause: My dream is to code a chess game, and my nightmare is to lose to it. The comma in the OP statement needlessly splits the compund predicate nominative: "to code and [to] have".
    – deadrat
    Mar 5 '16 at 4:41

"Legitimately" is a moral adverb (Zeno Vendler's term), which modifies a verb phrase. It comes either before or after the verb phrase it modifies. One of your alternative placements leads to an ambiguity:

My dream is to code a chess game, and then have the AI I [[developed] legitimately] checkmate me.
My dream is to code a chess game, and then have the AI I developed [legitimately [checkmate me]].

The problem is that "legitimately" both follows a verb phrase and precedes a verb phrase.

To avoid this problem, I'd choose your first alternative wording, putting the adverb after the second verb phrase, which makes the first interpretation above impossible:

My dream is to code a chess game, and then have the AI I developed [[checkmate me] legitimately].


The first question is answered that the duplicate question suggested by Fard. However, the second question is distinct.

The comma is somewhat necessary, as it and the "and" connect your independent clause (My dream is to code a chess game) to your dependent clause (then have the AI I developed legitimately checkmate me).

However, as The Editor's Blog points out, the comma + coordinating conjunction implies that the dependent clause is nonessential. This would mean that much more focus would go to the independent clause, which I would assume is not your intention. Thus, removing the comma may be better in your situation.

However, if anything is actually unnecessary to the sentence, it's the "and". The "then" implies an "and" with it.

  • You have misread your cite. Commas precede dependent modiyfing clauses to show that they're non-restrictive (or, if you prefer, nonessential). The OP's sentence has a compound predicate nominative "to code and to have). Generally speaking, commas separate conjoined independent clauses, not other conjoined structures. There are good reasons not to follow the general rule, but they are not applicable here. (PS it's actually the then that's superfluous.)
    – deadrat
    Mar 5 '16 at 4:36
  • Wouldn't you technically lose information if you remove the then, since it explicitly states that the checkmating happens after the coding?
    – ws04
    Mar 6 '16 at 5:18
  • Are you saying that it's possible to interpret the then-less sentence to mean that the program checkmated its author before it was coded? That would be quite a dream.
    – deadrat
    Mar 6 '16 at 6:39
  • Well, it certainly is possible...
    – ws04
    Mar 6 '16 at 22:05

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