In Part 1 of Commas Made Simple, I gave you a simple comma rule:
Comma Rule 1: If you’re connecting two independent clauses with a conjunction, you need a comma before the conjunction. Don’t use a comma if only one side of the sentence is independent.
I like grammar, so people think I’m weird.
The dog ate my homework, and now I’m in trouble.
The pizza was yummy and also very fattening.
Notice the lack of a comma in that last example. That’s because the second part of the sentence (the part after the conjunction “and”) is NOT an independent clause.
Remember that an independent clause has a subject and a verb and can stand alone as a sentence. Here are some examples of independent clauses:
The dog ate my homework.
Now I’m in trouble.
The pizza was yummy.
I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.
A dependent clause also has a subject and a verb, but it CANNOT stand alone as a sentence. It depends on something else to make it a complete thought. Here are some examples of dependent clauses:
After the dog ate my homework
Because the pizza was yummy
Dependent clauses don’t make complete thoughts because of the words that begin them. Here are most of the words that can begin a dependent clause.
after since where
although so that whereas
as than wherever
as if that whether
because though which
before unless whichever
even if until while
even though what who
ever since whatever whom
how when whose
if whenever why
When a clause (a group of words that has a subject and a verb) begins with one of these dependent words, it is usually a dependent clause. To see the difference between an independent and a dependent clause, look at this example of an independent clause:
We studied history together.
It has a subject (We) and a verb (studied), and it makes a complete statement. But as soon as we put one of the dependent words in front of it, the clause becomes dependent because it no longer makes a complete statement:
After we studied history together…
Although we studied history together…
As we studied history together…
Each of these dependent clauses leaves the reader expecting something more. Each would depend on another clause—an independent clause—to make it a sentence. The dependent clauses in the following sentences are underlined:
After we studied history together, we went to the movie.
We went to the movie after we studied history together.
No one at the movie theater knew that we studied history together.
While we studied history together, the library became crowded.
By now you’re probably wondering when we get to the comma rule. Here it is:
Comma Rule 2: When a dependent clause comes before an independent clause, it is followed by a comma. However, if the independent clause comes first in the sentence, do not use a comma.
Although she wasn’t finished studying, she went to the movie.
Because she finished her homework, she was able to go to the movie.
She went to the movie although she wasn’t finished studying.
I can go to the movie whenever I want.
And now, to help you practice, here are some exercises I put together. If you need the answers or want further explanation, comment on this link or email me (the former teacher lady and current member of The Tuesdays) at email@example.com.
Underline the dependent clauses. Then add commas where needed. Remember that when the dependent clause comes first, it is followed by a comma. However, if the independent clause comes first, you don’t need a comma.
- I like reading because it relaxes me.
- When I read I can escape real life.
- While I read I like to have a cup of coffee.
- I enjoy reading sad stories so that my life doesn’t look so bad.
- Although I like reading sad stories I also enjoy adventure stories.
- I do not care whether the story has magic in it or not.
- If the hero saves the day I will be satisfied.
- Whenever I read romance novels I am bored.
- Love stories do not interest me because the characters in them are unrealistic.
- After I finish reading a good book I want to share it with someone else.
All the sentences below have at least one dependent clause and one independent clause. Circle the dependent clause(s). Then write a C next to the sentence if it is punctuated correctly. Write an I next to the sentence if it is punctuated incorrectly. Correctly punctuate the incorrect sentences.
- Sometimes my son thinks he can do whatever he wants.
- He doesn’t understand that he has to do his homework before he can play.
- She wants to take home extra work so that she can get her G.E.D.
- Whatever you do don’t drink the milk because it is spoiled.
- After he got a job, he was able to buy a car.
- Ever since I learned all the comma rules I feel more confident about taking grammar tests.
- My teacher thinks that dependent clauses are fun.
- Most of us think, that she is a little strange.
- While I take this test please be quiet.
- Some people are noisy, whenever others are trying to work.