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I see that many people, many professionals on this site in particular, use a comma after an "and" that does not act as a conjunctive in a sentence with a compound predicate; for example, many people would place a comma here:

I went to the nearby cafeteria, and ate quite a lot of food.

A far more convincing example of this could be the use of a comma after the phrase "and also", where there clearly seems to be some sort of a pause – especially in longer or compound sentences or in ones where different verbs are used (compound predicates):

From this we can see that the author was trying to emphasise the good relationship between the two protagonists of the story, and also used the technique of alliteration for that purpose

What I think about this is that "and also" may be acting the same role as "namely" in sentences such as, "I was playing football with my friends, namely Geoff and George" – like a conjunctive to join a main clause and a subordinate clause. However, this still wouldn't explain why the comma is used before "and".

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  • There is no subordinate clause in "I was playing football with my friends, namely Geoff and George" and "namely" is an adverb.
    – user66965
    May 18, 2016 at 20:01
  • There clearly is: "Geoff and George" is the subordinate clause. "Namely" can clearly not be an adverb, as there is no verb for it to modify.
    – Max
    May 18, 2016 at 20:34
  • That's not a clause. In grammar, a clause is the smallest grammatical unit that can express a complete proposition. Every clause has a subject and a predicate. Google "clause" and you will get tons of sources that define "clause" in just this way. "Geoff and George" is an appositive--a noun, noun phrase, or series of nouns placed next to another word or phrase to identify or rename it. Furthermore, adverbs can modify adjectives, other adverbs, and entire sentences. This is grammar 101.
    – user66965
    May 18, 2016 at 20:39
  • Yeah, which is why it is a 'subordinate clause' - not a clause. A subordinate clause does not require a subject nor a verb.
    – Max
    May 18, 2016 at 20:58
  • Yes, it does. A subordinate clause is a clause. A subordinate clause cannot stand on its own because it requires a subordinate conjunction, but a subordinate clause, just like an independent clause, requires a subject and a verb. See, e.g., chompchomp.com/terms/subordinateclause.htm: "A subordinate clause—also called a dependent clause—will begin with a subordinate conjunction or a relative pronoun and will contain both a subject and a verb." This is not a matter of opinion or dispute. Google "define subordinate clause" and you will get many sites that all agree on this point.
    – user66965
    May 18, 2016 at 21:15

2 Answers 2

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First of all, it is true that the and in this sentence does not connect clauses, but it is not true that this sentence contains an "and that does not act as a conjunctive in a compound sentence."

I went to the nearby cafeteria, and ate quite a lot of food

is a compound sentence because it contains two predicates, which are connected by the conjunction "and."

Regarding the comma, some sources, like Purdue Owl, recommend against using it:

Don't put a comma between the two verbs or verb phrases in a compound predicate.

INCORRECT: We laid out our music and snacks, and began to study.

INCORRECT: I turned the corner, and ran smack into a patrol car.

Correct, according to this recommendation, is:

We laid out our music and snacks and began to study.

I turned the corner and ran smack into a patrol car.

or

We laid out our music and snacks, and we began to study.

I turned the corner, and I ran smack into a patrol car.

Some phrase this a bit differently, saying that no verb should be separated from its subject. This suggestion, of course, is not always easily followed, because some very long and complex sentences benefit from commas that break it up into discrete units. But, in most cases, the comma may easily be omitted, and, I personally would say, should be omitted.

Of course, those who use a comma in compound predicates will say it is perfectly acceptable, and I'm sure they can provide a source to back that up, in which case, it probably comes down to a matter of choice. (But, also of course, it's always a matter of choice anyway. If you love that comma, go for it.)

However, here are several more sources that recommend against using the comma in compound predicates:

  • A compound predicate says two or more things about the subject. A common mistake people make is to insert a comma between two elements of a compound predicate. This comma adds a pause that creates distance between the subject and the predicate, so you should not include a comma in this case, just as you would not use a comma to separate a verb from its subject or object. Here is an example that demonstrates the correct and incorrect ways to write a sentence with a compound predicate:

Correct: Ritija scratched the cat’s head and rubbed his belly.

Incorrect: Ritija scratched the cat’s head, and rubbed his belly.

APA Style Blog

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  • That's what I would suppose - but what about "and also"s? There clearly seems to be a pause when speaking.
    – Max
    May 18, 2016 at 20:49
  • In this sentence, and in most instances, I regard "and also" as redundant, but it is a longish sentence that could probably use a comma. I would say: "From this we can see that the author was trying to emphasise the good relationship between the two protagonists of the story, and that he used the technique of alliteration for that purpose." In this case, there is a comma between the main subject (We can see ...) and the second predicate (... that he used alliteration), which is sometimes unavoidable, as I said above.
    – user66965
    May 18, 2016 at 21:06
  • But, there is no comma in the compound predicate that pertains to the subject of the subordinate clause: "The author was trying ... and he used alliteration."
    – user66965
    May 18, 2016 at 21:08
  • As for the idea that one should always use a comma when one pauses in speech, this is not true. Commas and pauses in speech often do coincide, and speech patterns probably should be one consideration among several in deciding whether to use a comma, but this is not a definitive standard. A pause in speech could mean a dash, a semicolon, or a period. It could mean the speaker needs a breathe without regard to grammar. Different people have different rhythms. Besides which, punctuation is visual, not verbal. It is meant to aid readability, not to chart speech patterns.
    – user66965
    May 18, 2016 at 21:21
  • I know that a comma does by no means indicates a pause, but anything that goes after "and also" is usually an extra piece of information. In fact, let's just leave it - I think I'll take it to be a 'subordinate conjunction' if I do decide to use a comma before it.
    – Max
    May 18, 2016 at 21:28
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Commas are required at certain places in sentences for grammatical reasons. Not including them is an error.

Commas can also be optionally included anywhere the writer feels that there should be a pause. If there's a pause when speaking, you're fully justified in adding a comma to indicate it.

The person putting the comma in the sentence about the cafeteria probably paused at that point when they said the sentence in their head. It sounds perfectly natural to me.

When used in this way, commas are sometimes called rhetorical commas.

Someone else may be able to elaborate on grammatical reasons why this comma seemed like it ought to be there to the writer, but I really don't think that's necessary.

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    Is it really the case, though? What if I make pauses after each word, e.g. "My, name, is, Max" - would that still be 'right'?
    – Max
    May 18, 2016 at 17:21
  • Yes, sort of. It would mean that you were pausing after every word. That would be a crazy way to talk, but if you were trying to get across that pattern of speech to the reader, then that would be the way to do it.
    – DCShannon
    May 18, 2016 at 17:41
  • Hmmm... so it turns out there isn't any rule for placing a comma, is there?
    – Max
    May 18, 2016 at 17:45
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    @Max There are rules for where it has to go. Putting it in other places has an effect, and may or may not be wrong depending on what you're trying to do. As an analogy, you always need to stop at stop signs. There are other times when stopping is appropriate as well, but it depends on what you're trying to do. Randomly hitting the brakes for no reason in the middle of the road is wrong, unless of course you're avoiding a child, dog, etc.
    – DCShannon
    May 18, 2016 at 17:47
  • Very strange. I am going to have to double-check that with professionals. Always thought there would be rules as to where you can and cannot use a comma.
    – Max
    May 18, 2016 at 18:06

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