The sentence in question is "We believe that the best way to think about the mentor-mentee relationship is to remember that whenever possible, all adults in a child's life should act as a team. 

It seems odd to add a comma before "whenever" as there's no pause intended, and I don't think the phrase, "whenever possible" is truly parenthetical, as without it, the goal isn't really achievable anymore.

  • Parenthetical means having the form of an interruption. It does not mean the sentence means the same without it. All that's expected is that the sentence be grammatically correct without it. General Reference.
    – MetaEd
    Sep 3, 2012 at 19:45
  • 7
    If you put a comma after 'possible', you need one before 'whenever'. Such commas come in pairs. Sep 3, 2012 at 19:47
  • There seems to be an odd pause after the word relationship. I think it's caused by the "mentor-mentee" construct. If you could fix this then the sentence will possibly flow better and make your comma more comfortable in it's surroundings.
    – Chris
    Sep 4, 2012 at 0:09
  • But there is a pause. Not a big one, but it's there.
    – bib
    Sep 4, 2012 at 3:47
  • 2
    Given the closing reason, could someone please provide the single link to a page in a standard internet reference source that answers this?
    – Jaydles
    Sep 20, 2012 at 2:17

2 Answers 2


Whenever possible is an adverbial clause modifying is to remember. No comma is needed when an adverbial clause follows the main clause. However, your example sentence has the following:

-...verb - conjunction - adverbial phrase - relative clause...

I believe commas are needed because phrases are broken up. I agree with you that it looks odd as is. Also, I agree with Barrie that if you have the current comma, then you will need at least one more. I believe your options are as follows:

  • a)...is to remember that, whenever possible, all adults...
  • b)...is to remember whenever possible that all adults...
  • c)...is to remember that all adults...

I disagree with you that whenever possible is required, though. It is implied that the authors think this should happen routinely. However, it's fine to leave it in depending on the audience, because it may add emphasis to the importance of the action.

Also, I have to defer to those with more grammar and language expertise!

  • 1
    In the sentence given, Whenever possible is modifying act (as a team). (You don't need to remember whenever it's possible to remember, but to act as a team whenever it's possible.) Therefore the adverbial phrase is Not following the main clause of the entire sentence, it has been inverted for emphasis to be in front of its own main clause. As a result I believe your options B and C in particular completely change the intended meaning of the sentence since B mis-associates the "whenever possible" and C leaves us with a demand to do the impossible (always have everyone act as a team).
    – Hellion
    Sep 4, 2012 at 13:38
  • @Hellion Ouch! That's embarrassing! You're absolutely correct that whenever possible is modifying act. I was in over my head, here. And I agree that means b) is out! I disagree that whenever possible is needed, but that is a style issue. Thanks for correcting me!
    – Mike
    Sep 4, 2012 at 23:38

To answer your title question directly: It depends on the sentence.

In the example given, no comma is needed; whenever possible is an adverbial phrase modifying act as a team that has been inverted from its normal word order for emphasis. The sentence can be grouped logically as

The best way to X is to remember that Y.

Clearly there is no comma needed after the that in this construction. We are only concerned with the punctuation of Y, which is:

Whenever possible, all adults in a child's life should act as a team.

If you didn't place the adverbial phrase at the front, it would be

All adults in a child's life should act as a team whenever possible.

In that arrangement, you could make an argument for inserting a comma. I would say that both in the example's inverted form and in the standard post-position without the comma, it reads more as an admonition, imparting the sense that you should be seeking every opportunity to make it possible; while with the comma it reads more as a simple concession that the speaker knows it won't always be possible.

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