comma after introductory phrase [preposition]: At the time of...,

Rublevkin

New Member
Russian
Dear friends ~),

Please explain why I should use a comma after such phrases as "In France" or "In summer" when I start a sentence with them? And why shouldn't I use a comma in this case: "At the time of your arrival (???) I got caught in a cruel traffic jam."?

I tried to find a rule but unsuccessfully. There are rules for introductory words (however, therefore etc), dependent clauses and so on. But what is the rule for "In France" is still uncertain to me. Is it strictly that I should put a comma after it or not? What are the other types of introductions that should by followed by a comma (time, place - what else)? And what are that ones that shouldn't be followed by a comma?

Thank you in advance!
 
  • bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    Welcome, Rublevkin.

    It would be helpful if you provide a complete sentence as an example.

    Often, people will use a comma after the prepositional phrase if it is more than four or five words in lengths, as I understand it. It is often a matter of taste and of personal preference or else used to make the meaning clearer.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Hello Rublevkin ~ Welcome to the forum.
    I'm not sure that there is a rule for that: as Biblio says it's largely a matter of personal taste and preference.
    I (personally) wouldn't put a comma after a two-word introductory phrase like that unless I was following it with another.
    So:
    In summer most people have a holiday of one kind or another
    versus
    In France, at this time of year, most people take a holiday.

    I wouldn't (personally) have a comma after a longer and more complex introductory prepositional phrase:
    In the majority of British households there is at least one bread-winner.
    unless it had a verb in it:
    In the majority of the British households we surveyed, it was found that there was at least one bread-winner.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Here is a webpage on Commas and Introductory Elements* The advice it offers about using commas after prepositional phrases essentially agrees with the advice given in the posts above:

    1) Commas may be omitted after short introductory prepositional phrases, such as "In France":
    "It is permissible, even commonplace, to omit a comma after most brief introductory elements — a prepositional phrase, an adverb, or a noun phrase."
    2) Because "At the time of your arrival" includes two prepositional phrases, you may prefer to follow it with a comma. However, this is a stylistic choice, and not a fixed rule. You may choose to do it differently.
    "When a prepositional phrase expands to more than three words, say, or becomes connected to yet another prepositional phrase, the use of a comma will depend on the writer's sense of the rhythm and flow of the sentence."
    For an answer to your more general discussion about the use of commas after different types of introductory elements, see the page itself.

    *from the Capital Community College Guide to Writing and Grammar.
     

    Rublevkin

    New Member
    Russian
    Thank you all!

    It is very interesting to hear that there is no definite rule for the described cases. As I understand inroductory phrases that include country names should be followed by a comma: "In Russia, this is generally earlier than in Western countries." (from BBC - news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/5056672 (dot) stm). I've never seen such introductory without a comma.

    But today I opened an English book and found some other interesting examples of using comma or not.

    1. In informal English we can use when and where clauses...
    2. In formal English, verbs with future meaning can be followed by...
    3. In modern usage, some transitive verbs are used as intransitive verbs.
    4. In defining relative clauses we can modify the pronoun or adverb...
    5. In ellipses, we leave out words or phrases altogether.

    Can anybody explain what were the reasons for putting or omitting a comma in each of these cases? Or is it only a matter of taste?

    Thank you once again!
     

    paintedhouse113

    Member
    English - USA
    These commas are only to help the reader to understand better the sentences, and to control the flow of the writing. The comma is required in very few places, most of which are glaring, such as lists and direct address; to brood over commas in other cases or to try to codify them is also to limit the capability of one's writing.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    2. In formal English, verbs with future meaning can be followed by...
    This a rare case where I would use a comma after the introductory (as the author did), because without it there's the chance of the reader misreading it as:
    In formal English verbs with future meaning followed by X, it is usual to ...
    where the whole of the part in red is the introductory, rather than just the first two words:)

    I wouldnt've used a comma in any of the other sentences ~ I suspect that was just a combination of erratic personal taste and/or rather careless writing/proofreading.
     

    abenr

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    Thank you all!

    It is very interesting to hear that there is no definite rule for the described cases. As I understand inroductory phrases that include country names should be followed by a comma: "In Russia, this is generally earlier than in Western countries." (from BBC - news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/5056672 (dot) stm). I've never seen such introductory without a comma.

    But today I opened an English book and found some other interesting examples of using comma or not.

    1. In informal English we can use when and where clauses...
    2. In formal English, verbs with future meaning can be followed by...
    3. In modern usage, some transitive verbs are used as intransitive verbs.
    4. In defining relative clauses we can modify the pronoun or adverb...
    5. In ellipses, we leave out words or phrases altogether.

    Can anybody explain what were the reasons for putting or omitting a comma in each of these cases? Or is it only a matter of taste?

    Thank you once again!
    Rules or no rules, I always think it best to remember what H.W. Fowler wrote many years ago:

    "Anything that shows the reader what he is to expect, and so saves him the trouble of coming back to revise his first impressions, is desirable if there is no strong reason against it."


    Cheers,
    Abenr
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    I would put a comma in 4, depending on the intended meaning:

    In defining relative clauses, we can modify the pronoun or adverb...

    In defining relative clauses we can modify, the pronoun or adverb...

     
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