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In my mind, "I like him but not her" does not mean exactly the same as "I like him, but not her". The comma would insist on the opposition and put emphasis on "him" and "her". It puts weight on my dislike for "her". Am I making it up?

  • Definitely, commas count in putting emphasize in such sentences, Also in Persian the same thing happens. But which part of the statement the emphasize refers to is based on the rest of the context I think. – Kian Maghsoodi Jul 5 '16 at 20:36
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    Commas sometimes can make a very big difference in meaning. I do not really see the difference here, though. Can you edit your question to explain what exactly you think is different about the meaning with and without the comma? – MetaEd Jul 5 '16 at 20:45
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Definitely! I use this old sentence with and without a comma:

Let's eat, Grandma! and Let's eat Grandma!

To explain, the comma can indicate action taking place in the thought line that the literate interpreter sees needing decoding. In this instance, the item of direct address, 'you' (Grandma) is left out. In other words, instead of saying, "Grandma,you and we need to eat!" the comma allows the sentence to flow smoothly through a logical contraction. Grandma knows she is the person of direct address, and nothing sinister is implied.

In the second sentence, the absence of the comma makes the word grandma the direct object, or the intended food. The speaker is suggesting to his/her listeners that they cannibalize her.

| improve this answer | |
  • This answer does not answer the question. The question is about "I like him [,] but not her". We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed. For an introduction to the site, take the Tour. For help writing a good answer, see How to Answer. – MetaEd Jul 30 '16 at 19:22
  • @MετάEd Aside thing: could you tell me how did you manage to set that username? – Alejandro Jul 30 '16 at 20:44
  • @Ustanak Ask me in English Language & Usage Chat sometime. – MetaEd Jul 31 '16 at 3:05

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