Do they need commas?

CAN you tell which of the following sentences need commas in the places marked ( )?

1. Last Sunday’s storm caused several trees to fall on power cables ( ) and many residents were without electricity for two days.

2. Last Sunday’s storm caused several trees to fall on power cables ( ) and left many residents without electricity for two days.

3. She stayed( )but I went home.

4. Mel Gibson( )who was outstanding in Braveheart( )is my favourite actor.

5. The pupil’s father wrote a letter of complaint to the headmaster( ) who promised to look into the matter immediately.

6. Students( )who play truant( ) should be punished.

7. We are travelling to Gopeng( ) which is near Ipoh.

8. This is the book( )which you are looking for.

9. His favourite singers are Fauziah Latiff, Whitney Houston( ) and Leonard Tan.

10. The guests included Mr & Mrs Raman, Mr & Mrs Lim, Mr & Mrs Muthu( ) and their children.

11. The boss praised Azman for his diligence( )and honesty.

12. The company plans to build a factory in Gurun, Kedah( )next year.

13. After a long wait for the bus ( ) I decided to walk home.

14. If you get up late( )you’ll miss the bus.

15. Remembering his manners ( )the little boy thanked the hostess for the gift.

16. An active member of the club ( )Chong stands a good chance of being elected its president.

17. To stay fit and healthy( ) he walks three kilometres every morning.

18. To start a business without proper planning( ) would be foolish.

19. Mary( )on the other hand( ) likes swimming and jogging.

20. We played tennis on an old( ) clay court.


1. Comma needed. When a coordinating conjunction joins two independent clauses, we put a comma before the conjunction.

2. No comma. The conjunction “and” does not join two independent clauses – it merely joins the verbs “caused” and “left”. (Note: In some cases, a comma may be necessary when we have a distinct pause before the conjunction.)

3. No comma. When the independent clauses are very brief, we omit the comma before the coordinating conjunction.

4. Commas needed. The adjectival clause (relative clause) is non-restrictive – it merely gives extra information to the sentence – and should be set off by commas. The sentence would still make sense without it.

5. Comma needed. The adjectival clause that ends the sentence is non-restrictive.

6. No commas. The adjectival clause is restrictive – it is essential to understanding the meaning of the sentence.

Restrictive clauses are not set off from the rest of the sentence by commas.

7. Comma needed. The which-clause is non-restrictive.

8. No comma. The which-clause is restrictive.

9. Comma before “and” (serial comma) optional.

10. Comma needed. The serial comma shows without any doubt that “their children” refers to all three couples.

11. No comma. A comma is incorrect when “and” joins only two equal, or coordinate, elements in a sentence (in this case, two nouns).

12. Comma needed. In a complete sentence, a comma must follow the last element of an address or geographical location.

13. Comma needed. We use a comma after a long introductory phrase.

14. Comma needed. A dependent clause that starts a sentence must be followed by a comma. The comma disappears if we put the independent clause first: You’ll miss the bus if you get up late.

15. Comma needed. When a participial phrase begins a sentence, we put a comma after the phrase.

16. Comma needed. “An active member of the club” is a non-restrictive appositive phrase, and it is separated from the noun which it describes by a comma. (An appositive is a noun or noun phrase that renames or describes another noun beside it.)

17. Comma needed. “To stay fit and healthy” is an infinitive phrase used as an adverb. An infinitive phrase requires a comma only if it is used as an adverb at the beginning of a sentence.

18. No comma. “To start a business without proper planning” is the infinitive phrase subject of the sentence.

19. Commas needed. “On the other hand” is a parenthetical expression. Parenthetical expressions are set off by commas.

20. No comma. “Old” (adjective) modifies “clay court” (noun).



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