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Is it possible to have a list of items separated by commas where the last item in the list is not preceded by 'and'?

For example, "the river runs through dense bush, towns, cities, farms, dams, until it exits into the sea."

Or does it need to be "runs through dense bush, towns, cities, farms and dams, until it exits into the sea."

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    This being ELU, the answer is a simple 'No,' because it's not formal writing. OTOH, the given passage uses a literary technique to suggest an open-ended list, i.e., read an ellipsis at the end of the list: "runs through dense bush, towns, cities, farms, dams, ... until." HTH. – Kris Nov 30 '17 at 7:49
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    that's an interesting point, and really the problem with the sentence, it is not a complete list and by putting an 'and' before the last item it suggests that it is 'and dams' finished, whereas it really needs an ellipse to suggest only some of the places it runs through are listed. Given it is in a formal work though I will have to consider the ellipse or something else. – george weston Dec 2 '17 at 21:20
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Is it possible? Certainly: you did it yourself.

Should you? Eh, it's a judgment call. Technically, a list should have an and (or an or) before the last item, but leaving it out give the sentence a breathless, urgent quality that can be what you want in a dramatic narrative. In formal writing, I would never do it.

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Besides the exception of phrases like "et cetera," you must always have "and" before the last item in a list when the list contains three or more items as stated by http://www.getitwriteonline.com/archive/052709serialcomma.htm as well as many other online sources. However, according to https://www.grammarly.com/blog/et-cetera-etc/, you can use et cetera or etc. at the end of an incomplete list to avoid that "and." For example, "The river runs through dense bush, towns, cities, etc." In this case, you do not need the word and because the Latin phrase et cetera (etc.) does not require it. The reason for this is "et" means "and," in Latin, but you are able to avoid using the English form of "and" because it is imbedded into the phrase et cetera. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/et-cetera is just one of the many sources that confirm that "et" means "and" while "cetera" loosely translates to "the others." If you put them together, you get "and the others" hidden in the Latin phrase "et cetera."

  • Using etc. and using and do not mean the same thing, so are not alternatives. – Kris Nov 30 '17 at 7:50
  • The OP's original question asked if you could have a list of items separated by commas where the last item in the list is not proceeded by 'and'. So, this technically fits an answer to that question. @Kris – Jonathan Harbaugh Nov 30 '17 at 16:38

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