Clause connection rule. Joining and introduction.

Clause

Member
British English
Ok, so I know how to connect independent clauses and dependent clauses etc. But I am struggling with examples like these:

Hands should be kept by your side or in your pockets, and if possible, stand sideways on so you are not directly facing the dog.

We were visiting potentially dangerous dogs to see if they and their owners would make good television, but before we could do this, the health and safety conscious team required us to watch a safety video.

'and if possible' and 'but before we could do this' is my grammar correct in these sentences? They are kind of introductions but also joining the sentences... HELP?

Many thanks,
 
  • rhitagawr

    Senior Member
    British English
    At first glance, the first sentence reads as though your hands are to stand sideways. Perhaps you could say ...pockets. If possible... If you really want just one sentence, perhaps you could say ...you should stand...
    The second sentence looks OK to me. But again, you may like a full stop after television.
    Your grammar's correct. It's just a question of clarity.
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    Your first example really needs to be divided up. Otherwise you have a single sentence with no greater break than a couple of commas, but two separate subjects: Hands and you. At least put a semi-colon after pockets.
     

    Clause

    Member
    British English
    Ok, firstly thanks for the answers but still no one has answered the question.

    Here is another example: My friend agreed but as he was just observing, I thought I better give him something to watch.

    Should I put a comma before 'but'.

    There is an independent clause followed by an introduction to an independent clause. So you you need to separate the first independant clause to the introduction with a comma?

    Please help! :)
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    Forget these "rules" about dependent and independent clauses. Where do the pauses come? In my view it's:

    My friend agreed ................ but ....... as he was just observing....., I thought I better give him something to watch.

    ... so I'd put a semi-colon after agreed, and commas around as he was just observing.
     

    Clause

    Member
    British English
    Ok if I am to forget the rules then it should read:

    My friend agreed but as he was just observing I thought I better give him something to watch.

    OK, my original sentence --My friend agreed but as he was just observing, I thought I better give him something to watch.-- is not a great example because the comma after 'observing' is partly there for the meaning. And partly there because 'but as he was just observing' could be seen as an introduction. So that example is confusing to work with.

    Hear is one of my earlier examples:

    We were visiting potentially dangerous dogs to see if they and their owners would make good television, but before we could do this, the health and safety conscious team required us to watch a safety video.

    Independent clause - joining word and introduction to - independent clause.

    We were visiting potentially dangerous dogs to see if they and their owners would make good television - but before we could do this - the health and safety conscious team required us to watch a safety video.

    I do appreciate your help but still I am asking what rules are. In other words: Do the rules mean I need a comma before 'BUT' in this type of sentence structure?

    Does anyone on this forum know?

    Forget about whether it is a bad sentence or not... I just want to know what the rules are.
     
    Last edited:

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    I didn't say forget the rules, I said forget the "rules" about dependent and independent clauses. The only rule that matters is that punctuation reflects (a) the natural rhythm of speech and (b) the logic of the sentence.

    Your suggested My friend agreed but as he was just observing I thought I better give him something to watch does neither.

    I proposed that you listen to the way you would pronounce this sentence, which is, I suggest: My friend agreed [long pause] but [short pause] as he was just observing [short pause] I thought I better give him something to watch.

    For me, that would be the natural rhythm of speech and also the logical structure of the statement. You should replace the long pause by a semi-colon and the shorter ones by commas.

    This isn't a "rule" on whether or not you "must" place a comma before or after but. It's a call to you to consider the rhythm and logic of the sentence.

    In your second example: We were visiting potentially dangerous dogs to see if they and their owners would make good television, but before we could do this, the health and safety conscious team required us to watch a safety video you have the same structure. You've identified the pauses, but you've ended up with a phrase ("but before we could do this") surrounded by commas. This isolates it, like this, from the rest of the sentence, which isn't what you want.

    So again, I suggest that you put a second comma after the word but, thus: We were visiting potentially dangerous dogs to see if they and their owners would make good television, but, before we could do this, the health and safety conscious team required us to watch a safety video.

    My own preference would be for a semi-colon after television, but there again I'm a semi-colon fan. Alternatively, drop all the commas except the first one.


    So that gives you several choices:

    We were visiting potentially dangerous dogs to see if they and their owners would make good television, but, before we could do this, the health and safety conscious team required us to watch a safety video.

    We were visiting potentially dangerous dogs to see if they and their owners would make good television, but before we could do this the health and safety conscious team required us to watch a safety video.

    We were visiting potentially dangerous dogs to see if they and their owners would make good television. But before we could do this, the health and safety conscious team required us to watch a safety video.

    There are other options, using pairs of dashes or brackets. None of them have anything to do with dependent and independent clauses.
     

    Clause

    Member
    British English
    Personally I would say it like this:

    My friend agreed [short pause or no pause] but as he was just observing [short pause] I thought I better give him something to watch.

    But everybody speaks differently. Personally I disagree with the comma after 'but' because I wouldn't pause there in either sentences.

    As I am sure you are aware commas are not just there to indicate a pause. In the above example the comma after 'observing' is party there to stop it reading 'as he was just observing I thought'. Maybe I have also put it there to separate the introduction 'as I was just observing' as well. If there wasn't that potential change of meaning I might omit the comma altogether.

    I like this what you said -The only rule that matters is that punctuation reflects (a) the natural rhythm of speech and (b) the logic of the sentence.

    I know the rules don't always have to be followed and it's often a matter of style, but to say that it has nothing to do with dependent and independent clauses bemuses me. Clauses are what make up sentences. It has everything to do with clauses.

    There are apparently rules that apply to connect clauses. Sure you don't have to follow them, but there are rules.
    Here are the rules:
    http://rwc.hunter.cuny.edu/reading-writing/on-line/clause.html
    http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/598/01/

    Now I am not advocating playing by the rules. But when I struggle with sentences I find the rules can offer a guide.

    So again I ask, what is the common rule that connect an independent to clause to a joining word and introduction when an independent clause follows.

    I.e.
    We were visiting potentially dangerous dogs to see if they and their owners would make good television [what rule applies here] but before we could do this, the health and safety conscious team required us to watch a safety video.

    I just want to know what the common rule is. That is all I want to know here. If there is no common rule then I want to know that there is no common rule. Simple.

    Thank you for your post and suggestions.
     

    JustKate

    Moderate Mod
    I am apparently a lot more rules-oriented than Keith because there are some rules about commas - or at least some very good guidelines - and the best way to produce a total comma mess is for someone who doesn't know these to try to "reflect the natural rhythm of speech" using punctuation.

    That works great so long as you are knowledgeable about how sentences work, which Keith is, but most writers - and by that I mean writers who are native English speakers as well as learners - are not very knowledgeable about this. When people who don't understand how punctuation is supposed to work try to use it to reflect the natural rhythm of speech, it's just a disaster. I recently had to yank down from the company Facebook page a post written by one of my coworkers because in just two sentences he had seven perfectly horrible comma placements plus a couple of other errors as well. I am absolutely sure he tried to reflect natural speech rhythms, but what it looked like he'd done is use a Random Comma Generator.

    And that sort of thing happens all the time - at least for the people I edit (and I don't think they are exceptionally bad at their native language). That's what happens when people who don't know much about English punctuation try to place commas based on speech rhythms.

    As for your sentence: We were visiting potentially dangerous dogs to see if they and their owners would make good television [what rule applies here] but before we could do this, the health and safety conscious team required us to watch a safety video.

    The relevant guideline is that, generally speaking, when two independent clauses are joined by a conjunction, the conjunction should be preceded by a comma. If a greater separation of the thoughts is needed, a semicolon would work, too, as would a period (or "full stop"). All of those are equally correct.

    Edit: This guideline can be ignored under certain circumstances. (That's why it's called a "guideline.") For example, often there is no need for a comma if the two independent clauses are quite short. And sometimes the comma is left off for purposes of cadence or to - yes - reflect speech rhythms. If you wanted, for example, to give a sentence a breathless, run-on quality, you might want to leave that comma (or semicolon or period) off. But usually with independent clauses, you need to indicate a separation, and that's where punctuation comes in.
     
    Last edited:
    < Previous | Next >
    Top