comma before 'and' [clauses modified by common clause; conjunction]


New Member
I have a question that I think I know the answer to, but I never see it directly addressed in handbooks, so I want to see if anyone here can shed some light on this:

Does this example look correct?

1) "When I go to the doctor's office, I fill out paperwork and I get my temperature taken."

Because the dependent clause applies to both independent clauses, is it incorrect to add a comma after the coordinating conjunction?

The direct contrast would be something like this:

2) "When I go to the doctor's office, I fill out paper work, and I like tacos."

Here the person's statement about tacos is separate from the doctor's office (unless he or she only likes tacos at the doctor's office), and this makes the comma essential.

Am I right about this? Simply put, does the first example need an additional comma before the word "and"?

  • Hello oldlaughinglady - welcome to WordReference :)
    There are some helpful links in the forum sticky that point to punctuation guides that we have found useful and reliable. See below. I highlighted my favourite :)

    In your case, I think that "When I go to the doctor's office" needs to be separated from the main sentence by a comma. Only one comma is required.
    Others will suggest, I'm sure, that no comma is required at all. I wouldn't argue with them.

    In the second sentence, "and I like tacos" is a completely new thought and does not belong in the sentence at all.

    UK English, University of Sussex:

    US English, Capital Community College Foundation:

    US English, the Owl at Purdue University:

    US Government Printing Office:
    Start at and search for punctuation.

    The most feared punctuation on earth, by The Oatmeal:
    How to use a semi-colon.
    It is the verb "like" that makes your second example an inappropriate one. If you replace it with "chew", say, then your reasoning is sound.

    "When I go to the doctor's office, I fill out paper work, and I chew tacos."

    (I assume that a "taco" is something that you eat.)
    Pertinax, tacos are a Mexican dish and certainly not something you'd chew on at the doctor's office to bide your time, like chips or gum. :)

    It's a full meal, so similar to saying, I go to the doctor's office and I eat lasagna/pizza/steak/pad thai - it's a completely different thought since the idea is not that you eat lasagna/tacos while at the doctor's office.

    So I agree with Panj - it requires its own sentence. No comma will ever save the integrity of that sentence!