I want to know whether the sentence

As a member of the rescue team, I had a terrifying experience.

is correct with the comma after the "as"-clause.

From my understanding it boils down to the question whether the phrase "As a member of the rescue team" is a dependent clause. Other questions tackle other clauses (like "in"- or "for"-phrases), but I want to know whether "as"-clauses are dependent

If so, rule 2 from COMMA SUTRA: 13 rules for using commas applies and the comma is correct.

  • Regardless of anything else, it's a dangling modifier. As it's written, it's saying that your experience (not you) was a member of the rescue team. So, no matter what you do, you should rephrase it. Aug 14, 2019 at 5:35
  • @JasonBassford Fair point, Jason. I have updated the sample sentence accordingly. But my question stays: Is the phrase a dependent clause?
    – halloleo
    Aug 14, 2019 at 6:08
  • Possible duplicate of Comma after introductory phrases Aug 16, 2019 at 13:53
  • I'd class the introductory element as a (prepositional) phrase here. CED_Grammar Today has: 'As as a preposition ... We use as with a noun to refer to the role or purpose of a person or thing: I worked as a waiter when I was a student. Most of us did. / Collins: as prep 13. in the role of; being: as his friend, I am probably biased. // Compare For an Elbonian, she's not so bad. Aug 16, 2019 at 15:21

1 Answer 1


Yes, it's a dependent clause—and, because it's going first, there should be a comma after it.

From "Commas with Subordinate Clauses—A Reader’s Question" at The Editor's Blog, Beth Hill says the following:

An adverbial clause often starts with a subordinating conjunction. A short list of subordinating conjunctions:


A subordinate clause that stands alone is a sentence fragment . . . While we can use dependent clauses as sentence fragments, most of the time we don’t. We usually pair them with at least one independent clause and create sentences . . . Independent clauses often come first in our text, but putting dependent clauses first gives us variety in sentence construction . . .

When an adverbial dependent clause comes before the independent clause, we put a comma after the dependent clause (between the clauses). We don’t have to give any consideration to the topic of essential or nonessential—when the dependent clause comes before the independent, use a comma to separate them.

Note that it's a dependent clause because it wouldn't make sense on its own unless it were in response to what somebody else said:

"As a member of the rescue team."
"Sorry, what?"


"In what capacity did have a terrifying experience?"
"As a member of the rescue team."

In short, in order for it to be meaningful in any way, it has to have context—either within a dialogue or linked to an independent clause in the same sentence.

In order to address some comments, I interpret as in this sentence in the same sense as because or since.

From Merriam-Webster's seventh sense of the conjunction:

7 : for the reason that : BECAUSE, SINCE
// stayed home as she had no car

I also take there to be an elided (but implied) verb.

Therefore, the sentence could be rephrased like this:

(Because / Since) [I was] a member of the rescue team, I had a terrifying experience.

It's also possible to interpret as in Merriam-Webster's fifth sense:

// spilled the milk as she got up


(While / When) [I was] a member of the rescue team, I had a terrifying experience.

In either of these interpretations, as functions as part of a subordinate clause in a synonymous sense with one of the other words.

  • 'As a member of the rescue team' is a phrase. This 'as' is 'in my capacity as', not the 'while' or 'because' found with clauses. Aug 16, 2019 at 13:55
  • Some might call this a verbless subordinate clause consisting of a prepositional phrase, but most would, I think, just call it a prepositional phrase. The page you link to only discusses what they call the subordinating conjunction as (i.e., when the object is a verbal clause), which this isn’t – even in traditional grammar where as can function as a conjunction, this use of as is purely prepositional. Simple PPs often do not to take commas if they’re short, whereas clauses usually always take commas; this one is probably long enough that a comma is advisable in both cases. Aug 16, 2019 at 13:57
  • @EdwinAshworth I interpret the meaning of the phrase to be synonymous with (Because / Since) [I was] a member of the rescue team. From Merriam-Webster's sense 7 of the conjunction: "7 : for the reason that : BECAUSE, SINCE // stayed home as she had no car." Or, to change the order of the words, as she had no car, she stayed home. In short, I consider the verb to be elided. Aug 16, 2019 at 14:07
  • If you put both interpretations in the answer (ie add the 'comments'), I'll reverse (not nullify) the downvote. But all 'introductory elements', including clauses (kiamlaluno sensibly includes this broadening while OP perhaps thought it an extension too far), are covered in what I consider to be the duplicate for the IE +(?) comma question. // There are certainly two questions here. Aug 16, 2019 at 14:19
  • @EdwinAshworth Fair enough. Aug 16, 2019 at 14:52

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