I have a case of nested subordinate clauses that are, in addition, separated by a modifying adverb (namely) to help structure the sentence:

Note that we adopt the same stance as [authors] concerning [topic],
    namely that,
        as long as [condition that is fulfilled],
    then the fundamental statements about [X] apply equally to [Y].

My question relates to the second line in the above formatting, i.e., whether it should be

  • namely, that, as long as ...,
  • namely, that as long as ...,
  • namely that, as long as ... or
  • namely that as long as....

On the one hand, we have the modifying introductory adverb namely, and on the other hand there's the interjected subordinate clause beginning with as long as. The adverb potentially needs to be followed by a comma in this case?

Since the innermost subordinate clause is without question closed by a comma, it goes against my inner logician to not use a comma to separate it from its parent clause (though CMOS 6.26 seems to specifically recommend this). Then again, it seems that this might result in an awful lot of commas.

For reference, the version I prefer is the one given in the text snippet, probably because it most closely matches the intended prosody.


1 Answer 1


Note that we adopt the same stance as [authors] concerning [topic], namely, that as long as [condition that is fulfilled], then the fundamental statements about [X] apply equally to [Y].

Two preliminary points: (1) the as long as ... expression is not a clause but a preposition phrase, and (2) the adverb "namely" is not a modifier but a supplement.

The whole of the namely that ... expression is a supplementary adjunct, a non-modifying element, where "namely" acts as an indicator serving to clarify the semantic content of the supplement. The supplement has the NP "the same stance as [authors] concerning [topic]" as 'anchor'.

The preposition phrase "as long as [condition that is fulfilled]" is a conditional adjunct, where the PP "as long as" is used instead of "if" to govern the protasis.

I would mark off the indicator "namely" with commas, as shown above. There is no need for a comma after the subordinator "that".

  • Ah, thank you for your answer. However, maybe it was unclear what the structure of this "condition that is fulfilled" is: That part of the sentence contains a conjugated verb, so an example might be as long as the sky is blue. I'm therefore quite certain that this is indeed a conditional clause; it would be possible to replace "as long as" with "if" and only slightly alter the tone, but the grammatical structure would be unchanged. Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 12:10
  • @MrArsGravis No: it's not a clause. "As long as" is a preposition phrase. Conditional adjuncts are preposition phrases, typically introduced by the prep "if" (the head of the phrase) with a content clause as complement. The rest of what you say is the same as I said in my answer.
    – BillJ
    Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 13:44

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