it is a common practice to separate an adverb at the beginning of a sentence from the rest with a comma. However, I have read somewhere that we can omit the comma when no pause is needed. Is this correct?

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  • Please give some examples sentences. If you are learning English, you may find the English Language Learners site more suitable for such questions. – TrevorD Jul 9 '16 at 18:20
  • Usually, we include a comma. Sometimes we don't, but of course it may depend how long the following utterance is going to be (since we may not have enough breath for that extra pause! :) – FumbleFingers Jul 9 '16 at 18:40
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    In many cases, the 'adverb' at the start of a sentence is what is traditionally called a 'sentence adverb'. I'd call these words (and multi-word expressions) 'pragmatic markers'; these almost always require a comma. Frankly, I'd speak with him. Admittedly, he wasn't well. Clearly, he's better now. On the other hand, he's missed several vital lessons. However, 'Therefore he went home early.' works. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 9 '16 at 20:31
  • Possible duplicate of [answered at] Comma after introductory phrases though Correct use of 'introductory commas' is a closer form of question. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 9 '16 at 21:00

When a single adverb -- I'm not going to get into adverbial phrases because you didn't ask about them -- introduces a sentence, appearing in advance of the subject and verb of the main clause, the rule is to follow it with a comma. The exception to this rule is when the adverb is also being used somewhat conjunctively.


  • John went to the store then he went home.

In the above, "then" is being used as a subordinating conjunction that introduces the subordinate clause "he went home." When "then" starts a sentence, however, it's not a conjunction but an adverb, so you will often see a comma after it as follows:

  • John went to the store. Then, he went home.

However, oftentimes, we hear people rattle off that second sentence without even the tiniest hesitation between "then" and "he." When people do that, it's been construed that the adverb "then" is borrowing on its subordinating conjunction definition, so it has become acceptable to write it as follows:

  • John went to the store. Then he went home.

Owing to how the adverb "then" appears without a comma after it, we also hear people using "now" in the same way, but "now" isn't a subordinating conjunction. "Now" is only an adverb. Nevertheless, it has become acceptable to write it without a comma when it seems to be used more as a conjunction to append a new sentence to a prior sentence, for example:

  • I lost my keys. Now I don't know what to do.

You should know, though, that not putting a comma after an introductory adverb, whatever the adverb, is somewhat controversial grammatically. If you want to never be wrong, always put a comma. No one can fault you for putting a comma after an introductory adverb, but you may be faulted for not doing so.

More standard adverbs, adverbs that aren't used conjunctively, adverbs that end in "-ly" for example, appear with a comma after them nearly without exception.

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    Have you better supporting references for what you say? // Your first linked article contains: 'It is permissible, even commonplace, to omit a comma after most brief introductory elements — a prepositional phrase, an adverb, or a noun phrase: ... Jauntily he walked into the hall.'// This in fact contradicts your 'adverbs that end in "-ly" for example, appear with a comma after them without exception.'. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 9 '16 at 20:37
  • Yes. See the link embedded in the answer. – Benjamin Harman Jul 9 '16 at 20:39
  • Edwin, you're developing a habit of taking things I say out of context to imply a meaning different than what I actually said. What I said before that was "most standard adverbs," not "all." I didn't say "all" for precisely this reason. – Benjamin Harman Jul 9 '16 at 20:43
  • (1) You need to check your spelling before complaining about wrong readings. (2) 'adverbs that end in "-ly" for example, appear with a comma after them without exception' does not allow 'most adverbs that end in -ly ...'. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 9 '16 at 20:48
  • I do check my spellings, and don't go changing my post to something that is blatantly inferior. I embedded that link for a reason. – Benjamin Harman Jul 9 '16 at 20:50

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