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comma/not before 'because'/'but' [conjunction]: is rich, because he

Discussion in 'English Only' started by englishjasmin, Dec 8, 2011.

  1. englishjasmin

    englishjasmin Senior Member

    Slavic
    Is there a comma in front of "because" and "but" in case of independent clauses?

    Examples:
    John is rich, because he works for a bank.
    John is rich, but he is still single.
     
  2. Hermione Golightly Senior Member

    SW London
    British English
    There is no need at all to have a comma in these short sentences. They can be said without stopping for breath and the comma has no grammar implication here. However some people might think differently about sentence #2, because in speech there might be a slight pause for dramatic effect.
    :)
    Hermione
     
  3. dukaine Senior Member

    madison heights, mi
    english - american
    According to grammar rules, a comma is necessary for sentence 2. The "pause" rule is used just to help grammar students when trying to determine when to put a comma. A comma is not needed for sentence 1 because "he works for a bank" is an adjective clause, with "because" as the conjunction; it's modifying or describing why John is rich. In sentence 2, the second independent clause is not describing the first clause, and therefore needs a comma. If the first sentence said, "John is rich, and he works in a bank", you would need the comma, because then the second clause is not describing the first clause.
     
  4. englishjasmin

    englishjasmin Senior Member

    Slavic
    Thank you for the replies. Both replies told me not to use a comma with because, but both replies used a comma in the reply in front of because. Is that not a bit odd?
     
  5. dukaine Senior Member

    madison heights, mi
    english - american
    It's not the word "because" that dictates the comma, but rather what comes after it. The use of the comma in my sentence separates two clauses that don't describe each other; rather, the second clause is a further explanation of the first.
     
  6. englishjasmin

    englishjasmin Senior Member

    Slavic
    Because always explains the first clauses. Based on what I was told here so far, in the first two replies I think the comma before because shall not be. Am I right?
     
  7. dukaine Senior Member

    madison heights, mi
    english - american
    Quick note: "shall not be" should be "should not be".

    Ok, so your reply got me thinking, and you are right. Technically, "because" never needs a comma. However, it is used when sentences get really long, which makes for easier reading and comprehension.
     
  8. Copyright

    Copyright Senior Member

    Penang
    American English
    One exception that comes to mind: Don't ask me why, because I don't know.
     
  9. dukaine Senior Member

    madison heights, mi
    english - american
    Apparently, the rules don't dictate that the comma is necessary, although it is common practice for us to put it there, for emphasis.
     
  10. englishjasmin

    englishjasmin Senior Member

    Slavic
    "I don't know" explains why you should not ask him or her "why?". Don't ask me why, because it is a secret. What follows after because explains in both cases why you should not ask "why?". So the comma should not be, right? Let's talk grammar because I am writing a high-level research report, so I shall get at least the comma before "because" right.

    From what was written so far, everybody writes commas before "because", because it feels right. At the same time everybody agrees that the comma shall not be there in theory, because it explains the first clause.

    Now I am confused.
     
  11. dukaine Senior Member

    madison heights, mi
    english - american
    Indeed it is confusing. For formal writing, the comma is not used unless it is necessary for clarification.
     
  12. Pertinax

    Pertinax Senior Member

    Queensland, Aust
    BrE->AuE
    Geoffrey Pullum, one of the authors of the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, argues forcefully that there is no rule in English that precludes a comma before "because":
    http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=3338

    I am relieved to hear that, because I was never taught such a rule, and have never observed it where the sense requires otherwise.
     

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