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In this sentence

He took the money home, and was subsequently arrested on unrelated charges and is now in prison.

Can somebody please tell me if the punctuation is sufficient and properly placed?

I know the rule of comma before conj if it is connecting two independent clauses, but in my sentence, I am confused if the second clause is really stand alone or not?

In my second clause, is that right that He is the silent subject and therefore the clause is independent. How about the part and is now in prison — isn't that another independent clause with silent He subject?

Kindly clarify this to me. If this sentence is fine without any modification, can you please justify why?

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  • A problem is that 'He took the money home[,] and was subsequently arrested on unrelated charges' doesn't seem to make much sense. The clauses don't seem to mesh. This makes trying to sort out preferred punctuation a bit like deckchair rearrangement. Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 1:04

1 Answer 1

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You have only one independent clause here because you have a single subject governing a single albeit compound predicate comprising three verbs joined with conjunctions.

Here’s a parse of your sentence’s constituents:

(S (NP He)
   (VP (VP took
           (NP the money home))
       and
       (VP was
           (VP (ADVP subsequently)
               arrested
               (PP on
                   (NP unrelated charges))))
       and
       (VP is
           (PP now)
           (PP in
               (NP prison))))
   .)

As you see, there is just one S node, so exactly one independent clause.

There are any number of ways of writing this, depending on what you are trying to emphasize in its phrasing, but not all are equally felicitous.

  1. He took the money home and was subsequently arrested on unrelated charges and is now in prison.
  2. He took the money home, was subsequently arrested on unrelated charges, and is now in prison.
  3. He took the money home and was subsequently arrested on unrelated charges, and is now in prison.
  4. He took the money home, but was subsequently arrested on unrelated charges and is now in prison.
  5. He took the money home but was subsequently arrested on unrelated charges, so is now in prison.
  6. He took the money home and was subsequently arrested on unrelated charges, so is now in prison.
  7. He took the money home and was subsequently arrested on unrelated charges so is now in prison.

As you see, I suggest mixing up your conjunctions a bit instead of sticking only to and, because using but or so with these can make this easier to read and understand, and possibly to phrase.

As my previous sentence illustrates, there can be good reasons for using a comma before the conjunction even when it does not begin a new independent clause — the sort of thing one might use a dash for, but less obtrusively.

You might also prefer later over subsequently here.

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  • thanks @tchrist. your sentences indeed sounds better. It helped me a lot.
    – Rolly
    Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 1:57
  • Related.
    – tchrist
    Commented Nov 19, 2023 at 17:52

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