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"As I saw it, the relationship between a typical African and his dog is one of tangible mutualism. I say tangible because the African sees himself as the dominant creature not to be bothered by the dog, but nevertheless responsible for providing for it."

Why is a comma necessary before but? If you have a comma before a coordinating conjunction, doesn't that mean both sides of the "but" have to be independent clauses? However, in this case, "nevertheless responsible for providing for it" doesn't make sense by itself so it is not an independent clause. If it is wrong to put a semi colon in the place of that comma, surely it should be wrong to put a comma there as well.

  • I'm not really happy with the punctuation. '... the African sees himself as the dominant creature not to be bothered by the dog' reads as containing a defining passive infinitival. I'd want 'I say tangible because the African sees himself as the dominant creature – not to be bothered by the dog, but nevertheless responsible for providing for it.' This 'but' is now contrasting two (equivalent) fragments. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 9 '19 at 19:43
  • Why did you put a comma before the but? I thought the only time you put a comma before a coordinating conjunctive is when you are connecting two independent clauses. Is "nevertheless responsible for providing for it" an independent clause? If so where is the subject in this clause? – Seneka Dec 9 '19 at 19:52
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    Please look up 'comma' + 'coordinating conjunction' here on ELU. It's been covered before (and people who've been taught over-simplistic 'rules' keep asking this question). – Edwin Ashworth Dec 9 '19 at 20:08
  • Does this answer your question? Comma before 'but' – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Dec 11 '19 at 4:25
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Commas, and all punctuation, should be used to help readability and, if desired, avoid ambiguity. Something you will find in most major style guides. Punctuation is not a matter of slavish adherence.

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