Many publications use a comma between an independent clause and a dependent clause connected by a conjunction.

Recent example I came across:

I have to say I roll my eyes at the various attempts to explain President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state**, and to make plans** to move the U.S. embassy there.

(Source: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/12/andrew-sullivan-let-him-have-his-cake.html)

This Purdue article seems to caution against such use: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/607/02/

Are these commas grammatically correct? Why do many publications place/allow commas in these instances? Your input would be greatly appreciated!

  • 3
    The comma in the sentence does not separate an independent and dependent clause. It separates a compound infinitive: to recognize ... and to make plans. OWL at Purdue designates the use of commas in such compounds incorrect . But it doesn't seem a particularly egregious usage in this case. – Shoe Dec 8 '17 at 19:26
  • Hi Shoe, thank you for commenting. Here are some other examples that are not part of a compound infinitive: "Methods vary but this often involves placing needles at non-acupuncture points, and using retractable needles that don’t penetrate the skin." // "But the DUP objected that this might mean Northern Ireland being treated differently from the rest of the United Kingdom, and could even lead to there being a border in the Irish Sea instead." Were you to write an article with a similar construction, would you include a comma? – JS Kim Dec 8 '17 at 19:58
  • @JSKim sorry for misreading your questions earlier. To answer your question here, all of the sentences you mentioned are grammatically incorrect because of the comma placement except the third one since the comma seperate the adverbial clause from the main part of the sentence. – Jonathan Harbaugh Dec 9 '17 at 2:32
  • 2
    There are no cast-iron rules for commas. Advice such as from OWL is a good starting point. But careful writers might sometimes want to insert commas in compounds to avoid leading readers momentarily up a garden path, or to place a greater emphasis on the separate nature of the two parts of the compound. This is particularly the case if the second part of the compound is a long distance from the first. My personal preference for your two sentences would be to omit the comma in the first one, but to leave it in for the second. – Shoe Dec 9 '17 at 7:43
  • You will probably have noticed that two of the sentences in my previous post have comma-separated compounds! – Shoe Dec 9 '17 at 7:44

https://www.roanestate.edu/owl/Commas.html says this: "A comma can only be used to join two sentences together when it is helped out by a coordinating conjunction like for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so. ... Also, the words on each side of the semicolon should create a full sentence (independent clause)"

"to make plans to move the U.S. embassy there." is not a full sentence (independent clause) because there is no subject. Therefore, there should not be commas there, and the commas are grammatically incorrect. For the reason why some sources say it is okay to put commas there... I have no idea. Trust me when I say that any source you will find that is trustable will say that there is no comma connecting independent and dependent clauses with coordinating conjunctions.

  • Thank you for answering Jonathan! I think the way I phrased my question may have been unclear. I meant to ask whether the comma appearing after "the Jewish state" and before "and to make plans" is grammatically correct. – JS Kim Dec 8 '17 at 18:50
  • @JSKim Oh, I see. Sorry about that. I must have gotten confused. I will edit my answer accordingly. – Jonathan Harbaugh Dec 9 '17 at 2:20

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