One of the most common questions I get asked is, “Do you use comma before but?” The answer is: it depends. If you’re joining two independent clauses, then you’ll need to use a comma before but. However, if you’re just using but as a conjunctive adverb (to join two related ideas), then you don’t need a comma. Let’s take a closer look at both cases.
If you’re joining two independent clauses with but, then you’ll need to use a comma. For example:
- I’m going to the store, but I don’t have time to pick up milk.
In this case, the two clauses can stand alone as separate sentences, so you need a comma before but. Without the comma, it would read like this:
- I’m going to the store but I don’t have time to pick up milk.
This sounds like one run-on sentence, which is incorrect grammar. So remember, if you’re joining two independent clauses with but, be sure to use a comma first.
Before you begin: Understand the basics of the English language
There’s no doubt that the English language can be confusing. Just consider the many different ways to spell words like “color” and “savor.” But despite the challenges, learning English is well worth the effort. After all, English is the language of business and commerce, and it’s spoken by more than 1.5 billion people around the world.
Fortunately, there are some basic rules that can help you to quickly master the basics of the English language. For starters, always remember that there are only 26 letters in the alphabet. That may seem like a small number, but it’s actually quite versatile. With just 26 letters, you can create an infinite number of words.
In fact, the average English speaker knows between 10,000 and 20,000 words. So don’t be discouraged if you’re struggling to learn all of the vocabulary. Just focus on mastering the basics and you’ll be well on your way to becoming fluent in English.
The parts of speech and their functions
If you’re like most people, you probably learned about the parts of speech in school. You were probably taught that there are eight parts of speech: nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, interjections, and articles. Each part of speech has a specific function in a sentence.
Nouns provide the names of people, places, things, or ideas. Verbs describe actions or states of being. Adjectives modify nouns or pronouns. Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. Prepositions show relationships between words in a sentence.
Conjunctions connect words or groups of words. Interjections are short phrases that express emotion. Articles are special types of adjectives that introduce nouns.
While this traditional approach to the parts of speech can be helpful in some ways, it can also be overly simplified and limiting. For example, many words can function as more than one part of speech depending on how they are used in a sentence.
The word “run” can be a verb (I will run down the street), an adjective (The runner is very fast), or a noun (Yesterday’s run was exhausting). In addition, some languages have additional parts of speech that don’t fit neatly into the traditional categories. For example, Japanese has a part of speech called “adnominal,” which refers to words that modify other words using the genitive case.
And, whether you use the traditional eight parts of speech or a more nuanced approach, the important thing is to have a clear understanding of how words function in sentences. This will help you to construct well-formed sentences that communicate your meaning clearly and effectively.
The different types of sentences
A declarative sentence makes a statement. “The sun is shining.” “I am going to the store.” “We will have a great time.” An imperative sentence gives a command. “Close the door.” “Sit down.” “Please be quiet.”
An interrogative sentence asks a question. “What is your name?” “Where do you live?” “When will we arrive?” A exclamatory sentence expresses strong emotion. “No!” “Wow!” “That was amazing!” A hypothetical sentence raises a hypothetical situation. “If I won the lottery, I would quit my job.” conditionals usually start with ‘if’ or ‘unless.’
How to use a comma
If you’re like most people, you probably use commas without giving them much thought. However, if you want to write clearly and effectively, it’s important to understand how and when to use them. Here are a few tips:
- Use a comma to separate independent clauses that are joined by a coordinating conjunction (e.g., and, but, or, yet, so).
- Use a comma before a coordinating conjunction that introduces an independent clause.
- Use a comma after an introductory word or phrase (e.g., yes, no, well, Introducing my new novel).
- Use a comma to separate items in a series (e.g., eggs, milk, and butter).
- Use a comma to set off non-restrictive clauses (i.e., clauses that aren’t essential to the meaning of the sentence). For example: “My favorite author, JK Rowling, is from England.” In this sentence, the information in the parentheses could be omitted without changing the meaning of the sentence.
- Use a comma to set off parenthetical expressions (i.e., expressions that add information but could be omitted without changing the meaning of the sentence). For example: “I read books, magazines, and blogs.” In this sentence, the information in the parentheses could be omitted without changing the meaning of the sentence.
- When in doubt, leave out the comma. In general, it’s better to err on the side of caution than to risk confusing your reader with too many commas.
What is a conjunction?
A conjunction is a word that joins other words or groups of words. The most common conjunctions are and, but, and or. These three little words are called coordinating conjunctions because they coordinate, or join, two items that are of equal grammatical importance. There are also subordinating and correlative conjunctions, which join two items of unequal grammatical importance.
Subordinating conjunctions include words like after, although, as, because, before, even though, if, since, so that, though, unless, until, when, whenever, where, whereas, and while. Correlative conjunctions always come in pairs and include words like both…and, either…or, neither…nor, not only…but also., whether…or ,and just as…so.
You can remember these coordinating conjunctions with the acronym FANBOYS: for, and ,nor ,but ,or ,yet ,so. You can remember the subordinating conjunction words by thinking of the acronym AS IF: After Since Even though If Though Unless When Whenever Where Whereas While. Just remember that a conjunction is a word that joins other words or groups of words!
What is a subordinate conjunction?
A subordinate conjunction is a conjunction that introduces a subordinate clause and is typically used to connect two independent clauses. Unlike a coordinating conjunction, which simply connects two clauses, a subordinate conjunction expresses a relationship of time, place, or cause and effect.
For example, “I will go to the store when I finish my homework.” In this sentence, “when” is functioning as a subordinate conjunction to introduce the subordinate clause “I finish my homework.” Other common subordinate conjunctions include “since,” “although,” and “while.” By understanding how to use subordinate conjunctions, you can add variety and complexity to your writing.
What is a coordinating conjunction?
A coordinating conjunction is a word that joins two or more items of equal grammatical importance. The most common coordinating conjunctions are “for,” “and,” “nor,” “but,” “or,” “yet,” and “so.” Each of these words has a different meaning, which can affect the way a sentence is interpreted.
For example, the conjunction “but” can be used to introduce a contrasting element, while the conjunction “so” can be used to indicate cause and effect. When using a coordinating conjunction, it is important to choose the word that best conveys the intended meaning.
How do you use comma with but or other coordinating conjunctions?
A comma is most commonly used with coordinating conjunctions to join two independent clauses. For example, you might write, “I have a big project due tomorrow, so I can’t go out tonight.” In this sentence, the comma signals to the reader that the two clauses are closely related and that they should be read as a unit.
However, you can also use a comma without a coordinating conjunction to join two independent clauses. For example, you might write, “The meeting has been postponed, we will reschedule for next week.” In this sentence, the comma helps to create a pause between the two clauses, which can be useful for creating emphasis or for making your writing sound more natural.
It’s worth noting that you don’t always need a comma when you’re using a coordinating conjunction. For example, you might write, “I’m going to the store and then I’ll come home.” In this sentence, the meaning is clear without the use of a comma, so it’s not essential. However, including a comma can often make your writing sound smoother and more polished.
How do you use a comma with subordinating conjunctions?
When you’re writing, it’s important to use punctuation correctly in order to communicate your message clearly. This can be especially tricky when it comes to using commas with subordinating conjunctions. A subordinating conjunction is a word that connects two clauses, with the subordinate clause coming after the main clause.
For example, you might use the subordinating conjunction “after” to connect the subordinate clause “I finish my work” with the main clause “I will go for a walk.” In this sentence, the comma is placed before the subordinating conjunction to signal that there is a break between the two clauses.
However, not all subordinate clauses need to be preceded by a comma. If the subordinate clause is short and does not cause any confusion, you can omit the comma. For example, the following sentence is grammatically correct without a comma: “After I finish my work I will go for a walk.”
In general, if you’re unsure whether or not to use a comma with a subordinating conjunction, it’s best to err on the side of caution and include one. This will help to avoid any confusion and ensure that your meaning is clear.
Commonly used subordinating conjunctions
A subordinating conjunction is a word that joins an independent clause and a dependent clause. The most common subordinating conjunctions are words like “after,” “although,” “as,” “because,” “before,” “how,” “if,” “once,” “since,” “than,” “that,” “though,” “until,” and “when.” These words are important because they signal to the reader that the Independent clause is subordinate, or dependent, on the dependent clause.
In other words, the idea in the dependent clause is not as important as the idea in the independent clause. This can be helpful for writers because it allows them to focus readers’ attention on the most important ideas in a sentence or paragraph. It can also help writers to create flows of ideas by linking clauses together in a logical way.
For example, a writer might use a subordinating conjunction to introduce an exception to a rule: “Although I generally prefer cats to dogs, I have to admit that my dog is pretty cute.” In this case, the writer uses the subordinating conjunction “although” to signal that what follows is an exception to the rule stated in the independent clause.
Subordinating conjunctions can be very helpful for writers, but it’s important to use them sparingly and carefully so that your writing doesn’t become too choppy or difficult to follow.
Examples of how to use a comma with subordinating conjunctions
As anyone who has ever struggled with punctuation knows, understanding how and when to use a comma can be tricky. One of the most common uses for a comma is with a subordinating conjunction. A subordinating conjunction is a word that introduces a subordinate clause, which is a clause that cannot stand alone as a sentence.
Some examples of subordinating conjunctions include after, although, as, because, before, if, since, though, until, and when. When used correctly, a comma can help to clarify the meaning of a sentence and to make the writing sound more natural.
For example, take the following sentence: “I’m going to bed early tonight because I have to get up early tomorrow.” In this sentence, the subordinating conjunction “because” introduces the subordinate clause “I have to get up early tomorrow.” Without the comma, the meaning of the sentence would be less clear.
However, by adding a comma before the conjunction, we signal to the reader that there is an independent clause (the part of the sentence before the conjunction) and a subordinate clause (the part of the sentence after the conjunction). As a result, using a comma with a subordinating conjunction can be an effective way to improve your writing.
Exception to the rule: When not to use a comma before but
There are a lot of rules when it comes to commas, and most of the time, it’s pretty straightforward. In general, you use a comma to separate two independent clauses when they are joined by a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so). However, there is one exception to this rule.
You do not need to use a comma before but when it is connecting two related phrases or clauses. For example, consider the following sentence:
- I was going to go for a run but then I remembered that I didn’t have my phone.
In this case, the two clauses are closely related and the meaning of the sentence would not be changed if we removed the comma. On the other hand, consider this sentence:
- I was going to go for a run, but then I remembered that I didn’t have my phone.
Here, the clauses are more distinct and adding the comma helps to clarify the intended meaning. So, when in doubt, err on the side of using a comma before but. In most cases, it will make your writing clearer and more understandable.
Other instances when you don’t need a comma before but
You don’t need a comma before but when you’re joining two independent clauses with a coordinating conjunction. However, there are other instances when you might want to use a comma before but. For example, if you’re using but to introduce a contrasting element in the middle of a sentence, you’ll probably want to set it off with a comma. The same is true if but is acting as an interrupter.
In general, if but is adding information that could be left out of the sentence without changing the meaning, it’s probably best to set it off with a comma. Of course, there are always exceptions to these rules, so use your best judgment. And if in doubt, err on the side of using too many commas rather than too few.
How to avoid comma splices
A comma splice is a writing mistake that happens when two independent clauses are joined together with just a comma. This may seem like a small error, but it can make your writing look sloppy and unprofessional. The good news is that avoiding comma splices is fairly easy once you know what to look for. Here are some tips:
- Use a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) to join the two clauses together. For example: “I’m studying for my math test, and I’m also studying for my history test.”
Use a semicolon to join the two clauses together. For example: “I’m studying for my math test; I’m also studying for my history test.”
- Rewrite the sentence so that it is two separate sentences. For example: “I’m studying for my math test. I’m also studying for my history test.”
What is a run-on sentence?
A run-on sentence is a sentence that is too long and rambles on without a clear structure or purpose. It is often the result of two or more independent clauses being joined together without any form of punctuation or conjunction. This can make the sentence difficult to read and understand, as the reader can lose track of the main idea.
Run-on sentences are also known as “fused” or “comma splices.” While they are technically grammatically incorrect, they are often used in informal writing, such as in email or text messages. In general, it is best to avoid run-on sentences in formal writing. If you find yourself using one, try breaking the sentence up into shorter, more concise clauses.
How to fix a run-on sentence
A run-on sentence happens when two independent clauses are squished together without any sort of punctuation or joining word. The result is a choppy, hard-to-read sentence that confuses the reader. Fortunately, there are a few easy ways to fix a run-on sentence. The first step is to identify the independent clauses.
An independent clause is a group of words that contains a subject and a verb and can stand alone as a complete thought. Once you’ve identified the independent clauses, you can add a comma and a joining word like “and,” “but,” or “or” to connect them. Another option is to use a semicolon to separate the two clauses.
This creates a smoother transition between the two ideas. Finally, you could also choose to start the second clause with a subordinating conjunction like “although,” “because,” or “since.” This effectively turned the second clause into a dependent clause, which can’t stand alone as a complete thought.
Whichever method you choose, make sure to revise your sentence so that it flows smoothly and makes sense to the reader. With a little effort, you can transform even the choppiest run-on sentence into clear, concise prose.
Tips for avoiding run-on sentences
I’m going to teach you how to avoid run-on sentences, which are a very common type of sentence error. The main reason why people use run-on sentences is because they’re trying to sound smarter or more important than they actually are, and they think that by packing a lot of information into one sentence, it’ll make them sound smarter. But the reality is that run-on sentences are confusing and difficult to read, so avoid them at all costs. Here are some tips:
- Use shorter sentences. This is the most important tip. A shorter sentence is always better than a long, complicated one. If you can say what you need to say in 10 words instead of 20, do it.
- Use punctuation correctly. A period marks the end of a sentence, so if you have two independent clauses (a clause is a group of words with a subject and a verb), they need to be separated by a period, semicolon, or conjunction. For example: “I have a dog; his name is Tim.” See how each side of the semicolon could stand alone as its own sentence? That’s what you want.
- Be clear and concise. Don’t try to pack too much into one sentence. If you can break your thoughts up into several smaller sentences, do it. It’ll be much easier for your reader to understand what you’re trying to say.
4 Elias went for walk” is incorrect because there’s no subject on the left side of the semicolon; “Elias went for walk” would be correct because “Elias” is the subject of the second clause. So make sure that each side of the semicolon has a complete thought with a subject and a verb. Otherwise, you’re just creating confusion.
The difference between a comma and a semicolon
A comma is a mark of punctuation used to indicate a brief pause or separation in a sentence, usually before and after a list of items. A semicolon, on the other hand, is a mark of punctuation that indicates a longer pause than a comma, and is used to link together two closely related independent clauses.
In other words, a semicolon can be thought of as a ‘stronger’ version of a comma. While both marks are used to create pauses in a sentence, the semicolon is generally used when there is a need to create a stronger break than what a comma can provide. So, next time you’re wondering whether to use a comma or semicolon, think about how strong of a break you need to create in your sentence.
When to use a semicolon instead of a comma
A semicolon is a powerful piece of punctuation. When used correctly, it can add nuance and depth to your writing. But when used incorrectly, it can be confusing and even off-putting. So when should you use a semicolon instead of a comma?
Here are a few guidelines:
Use a semicolon to join two closely related independent clauses. For example:
- The dog barked; the cat hissed.
Use a semicolon to join two independent clauses that are already connected by a conjunctive adverb or transitional phrase. For example:
- I’m studying for the exam tomorrow; nevertheless, I’m going to the party tonight.
Generally speaking, if you could replace the semicolon with a period (and still have two complete sentences), then you’re using it correctly. However, there are always exceptions to the rule. So if you’re ever in doubt, err on the side of caution and stick with a comma. Your readers will thank you for it.
More examples of how to use semicolons correctly
A semicolon is most commonly used to join two independent clauses, or two complete sentences that could stand alone as separate sentences. This is different from a comma, which would create a run-on sentence. For example:
- I have a big project due tomorrow; I can’t go to the party tonight.
This semicolon use is called a coordinating conjunction.
Other common uses of the semicolon include:
- Separating items in a list when some of those items already contain commas: The guest list includes Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged; George Orwell, author of 1984; and Kurt Vonnegut, author of Slaughterhouse-Five.
Connecting two independent clauses that are closely related in theme: I dropped my phone in the toilet; now I have to buy a new one.
When writing a business letter, you might use a semicolon after the salutation and before the complimentary close: Dear Ms. Randall; Sincerely, Charles Underwood.
Remember, when in doubt, you can almost always use a period instead of a semicolon. In general, it’s better to err on the side of simplicity.
Punctuation marks that can be used with conjunctions
A conjunction is a word that joins together other words or groups of words. The most common conjunctions are “and,” “but,” and “or.” There are also many other less common conjunctions, such as “nor,” “yet,” and “so.” Each type of conjunction has its own set of rules for how it should be used. For example, the conjunction “and” is typically used to join two things that are similar, while the conjunction “but” is used to join two things that are different.
The conjunction “or” can be used to either join two similar things or two different things. In general, conjunctions should be used sparingly in order to avoid making your writing sound choppy. However, when used correctly, they can add variety and interest to your writing.
Semicolons with conjunctions: Rules and examples
A semicolon is most commonly used to link two independent clauses that are closely related in thought. This is done by using a semicolon before a conjunction such as and, but, or, nor, yet, so. For example:
- I have a big project due tomorrow; I can’t go to the party tonight.
- She didn’t study for the test; she failed.
This use of the semicolon is called a comma splice. improving your writing skills; however, is not difficult.
Semicolons can also be used between items in a list or series when some of the items contain commas. For example:
- The guest list includes: John Smith, M.D.; Jane Doe, Ph.D.; and Bill Jones, Esq.
- The verdict was guilty on all counts: grand theft, embezzlement, money laundering, and conspiracy to commit fraud.
When used in this way, the semicolon helps to clarify the relationship between the various items in the list or series.
One final note: although semicolons are very versatile, they should be used sparingly in most writing. When in doubt, err on the side of using shorter sentences and simpler constructions rather than longer ones with multiple clauses linked by semicolons. Overuse of semicolons can make your writing seem choppy or overly technical.
Colons with conjunctions: Rules and examples
Here’s a quick tip about colons and conjunctions: if you’re using a colon to introduce a list, don’t use a conjunction before the list. For example, wrong: We have three options: and, or, and nor. Right: We have three options: and, or, nor.
Why? Because when you use a conjunction after a colon, it’s like saying “Here’s what I’m about to list”: It tells the reader that what comes next is a list of examples or possibilities or consequences, but not an exhaustive list. On the other hand, omitting the conjunction implies that the list that follows is exhaustive.
Dashes with conjunctions: Rules and examples
Dashes are the tool of last resort for writers. Something about the way they look draws people in and makes them keep reading, even when they probably shouldn’t. So if you’re in a situation where you want to break up a block of text or add extra emphasis, dashes are the way to go. Here are a few rules to keep in mind:
- Use a dash sparingly-too many dashes can be distracting and make your writing hard to follow.
- When using a dash, make sure that the sentence still makes sense when you remove the dash and everything before it. For example: “I’m not sure what you’re getting at-can you explain it?” would become “Can you explain it?”
- Dashes can be used with conjunctions (and, but, or, nor, for, yet, so) to create compound sentences. For example: “I’m not sure what you’re getting at-but can you explain it?” This use of the dash is called an appositive dash.
- You can also use a dash to set off a list within a sentence. For example: “There are three things I need to do today-get milk, pick up the dry cleaning, and call my mom.” This use of the dash is called a series dash.
- Dashes can be used for emphasis, as in: “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings-I’m sorry.” Here, the dash creates an interruption that emphasizes the apology that follows.
Keep these rules in mind and you’ll be able to use dashes effectively in your writing.
Ellipses with conjunctions: Rules and examples
When you’re stringing together a list of items with conjunctions (and, but, or, yet, so, for, nor), you might be tempted to use an ellipsis … to save space.
Here’s the rule: don’t do it. It’s confusing and not technically correct. If you want to leave something out, use a comma:
We have peaches, apples, and strawberries.
We have peaches, apples … and strawberries.
- The ellipsis is more commonly used these days to indicate a trailing off, mid-sentence:
I’m not sure what to do…
But wait! There’s more…
Used this way, an ellipsis is perfectly fine. Just remember that when you’re using ellipses in conjunction with other punctuation marks, be sure to put spaces before and after the ellipsis for readability.
In summary, when it comes to using commas before but, there are three main schools of thought. The first camp believes that the conjunction should always be followed by a lowercase letter, regardless of whether the word is part of a proper noun. The second camp takes a more traditional approach, arguing that the conjunction should be followed by an uppercase letter if it is the first word in a sentence.
There are valid arguments on both sides, but ultimately it is up to the author to decide which style to use. For instance, if you are writing for an audience that expects formal language, you may want to err on the side of conservatism and use uppercase letters after conjunctions. On the other hand, if you are writing for a more casual audience, you may want to use lowercase letters to convey a relaxed tone. Whichever style you choose, be consistent throughout your document. Inconsistency will only confuse your reader and take away from your message.
As for using dashes, there are four main uses: an appositive dash, a series dash, an interruption dash, and an ellipsis. Each of these has its own rules and examples that you should keep in mind when using them in your writing.
And finally, when it comes to question marks with conjunctions, there are two main schools of thought: those who believe the conjunction should always be followed by a lowercase letter, and those who believe it should be followed by an uppercase letter if it is the first word in a sentence. Ultimately, it is up to the author to decide which style to use, but consistency is key.
Q: Do I need a comma before “but”?
A: No, you don’t need a comma before “but” unless it’s part of a larger list of items. For example, if you’re listing two or more things and one of them is “but,” then you would use a comma:
I have a cat, a dog, but no birds.
However, if you’re not listing anything else with “but,” then there’s no need for a comma:
I have a cat but no dog.
In general, it’s best to err on the side of using too few commas rather than too many. Overusing commas can make your writing look cluttered and can be confusing for readers. When in doubt, leave the comma out!