2
  • John was waiting for Tammy, while, in the tavern, Tammy was waiting for Jim.
  • John was waiting for Tammy, while in the tavern Tammy was waiting for Jim.

I'm not too sure which is correct. I feel the first example is correct, but it sounds awkward. I realize the sentence can be rewritten, but I want to know which one is right. Edit: Also, does this fall under non-restrictive/restrictive, or is it something else? Also, would there be a comma behind the "or" in the previous sentence? Thank you.

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    It has nothing to do with restrictive/non-restrictive. That applies to relative clauses. These are not relative clauses. This is a question about comma usage, as far as I can see. So the answer is that number 2 is better than number 1 because that one has too many commas. And it's generally bad practice to put commas on both sides of a short word, because that's not the way people say it, and that's distracting to the reader who's trying to make sense of the marks in front of them, and hearing them in English often helps. – John Lawler Oct 19 '18 at 2:02
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    The answer is subjective. To me, the first is more natural sounding, with pauses where I would put them if I were speaking. I'm better able to understand what's being described with the commas than without them. – Jason Bassford Oct 20 '18 at 16:20
1

For me, based on the overall structure and what I perceive to be the intended focus of the sentence, it is a third option:

In the final sentence, you have:

1) Two simple sentences:

John was waiting for Tammy. Tammy was waiting for Jim.

2) The coordinating conjunction 'while' links (coordinates) the timing of the two events and can be used without a comma to create a compound sentence:

John was waiting for Tammy while Tammy was waiting for Jim.

3) The adverbial phrase 'in the tavern' is subordinate to the two main clauses and can be placed either at the beginning or the end of the final clause. Placing it in the middle of the compound sentence requires commas to demarcate it:

John was waiting for Tammy while, in the tavern, Tammy was waiting for Jim.

If I placed the adverbial phrase at the end of the sentence, I would use a comma after the first clause, though. The second part of the sentence has become subordinate to the first part, providing more detail about when John was waiting and could be moved to the start of the sentence to achieve a different effect:

a) John was waiting for Tammy, while Tammy was waiting for Jim in the tavern.

b) While Tammy was waiting for Jim in the tavern, John was waiting for Tammy.

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