comma before 'and' in list [serial, Oxford, Harvard] : I like apples, pears<,> and oranges.

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Alxmrphi, May 29, 2007.

  1. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    If someone is giving a list of something like.......

    I like apples, and oranges, and pears.

    The first "and" is incorrect, right?
    I always thought that because of the comma, there is no and, only with the last noun, so it should be

    I like apples, oranges, and pears.

    This is correct, isn't it, it is quite redundant to keep repeating and, and is incorrect 'proper' English, isn't it?
  2. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Hi Alex,
    Before I go hunting for grammar book 'rules' about lists, it's worth mentioning that whatever 'rules' may or may not say on the topic of potentially redundants "ands", there will be times when a writer's stylistic intentions, including a need for emphasis, dictate the use of more than one "and" in a list.

    I've now checked with H.W. Fowler, who says that the combination of 'and' with a comma may be logically unnecessary, but
    useful. He mentions no rule.

    This is the sample sentence he calls (b):

    b. Let us freely drink in the soul of love and beauty and wisdom, from all nature and art and history.
  3. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    I accept that, I just mean on the value to say it is redundant, is it something like, well I dunno, would it be wrong enough to suggest not to use it and be considered a bad judgement to correct someone who is learning another language, or say it on here etc?
  4. Mark1978 Senior Member

    Yes, in most circumstances when making a list you will use commas except before the last item when you will use and.
  5. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Yes, cuchu I understand your example, but this is not what I am talking about, not making a list with and, where as you said it can be useful, I mean making a list with "and" AND "commas".

    I agree with Mark though, thanks for confirming!
  6. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Stylistic generalities are useful for learners, and it certainly wouldn't hurt to state that we usually do as Mark1978
    suggests. That is a far cry from saying that use of more than a single comma+and in enumeration is wrong, incorrect, or violates a rule of grammar. It is not wrong, or incorrect, or in violation of a rule. It may be unidiomatic in some contexts, and thus should be avoided unless it serves a rhetorical or other stylistic purpose.
  7. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    There are two generally-accepted styles:
    A, B, C, D and E.
    A, B, C, D, and E. <The comma after D is sometimes referred to as the "Oxford comma" because this style is used by the Oxford University Press.

    That doesn't prevent you from inserting ands here and there if the context requires it.
    Red and yellow and pink and green, orange and purple and blue: I can sing a rainbow ... ... ...
  8. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    More Fowler, on the combined use of commas and ands: "In the type sentence, which contains two enumerations, it would be legitimate to use commas as well as andswith one set and not with the other, if it were desired either to avoid monotony or to give one list special emphasis."
  9. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    But in my example I gave in the first post, if I suggested to someone learning English that it's best to take out the "and" before oranges, this isn't wrong of me, is it? (just for future clarification)
  10. river Senior Member

    U.S. English
    Repeated ands aren't wrong. They tend to happen when people are still thinking about something: "Let's see - I'll have one these, and two of those, and one of these, and three of those, oh, and one of these."

    Fun fact: the "Oxford" comma is also know as the "Harvard" comma.
  11. Starbuck Senior Member

    And don't forget:

    Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

    Starbuck ;)
  12. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
  13. Toadie

    Toadie Senior Member

    The exta "ands" are only right when, like you said, you are still thinking. Technically, they aren't right, though. They are only excusable when you pause in between saying something. Kind of like: "I'll have a... uhh... an apple."
  14. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English
    In my opinion, the extra "ands" are acceptable if:

    1. You know it is not conventional in usage.

    2. You know the conventional usage and how to structure the sentence using it.

    3. You feel that the extra "ands" are useful for either artistic or expressive effects.

    4. You know that there will be some criticism for the use of the extra "ands", and in spite of that risk you think they are worthwhile...

    Then go ahead and use them.

    Using them out of ignorance is a bad deal; using them with knowledge can be very effective.
  15. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Very wise advice, Packard - and generally applicable too.
  16. mplsray Senior Member

    "Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!" is a quote from the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz, widely known in the United States since back in the day it was shown at least once a year on network television. It is the first thing I think of when the subject of a list connected by multiple and's is discussed.
  17. Kotuku33 Senior Member

    New Zealand
    French & English, Alberta, Canada
    In an academic text, do people have an opinion on whether the use of the Oxford comma must be slavishly applied? Sometimes I feel like a sentence needs one and then in another sentence it just feels slavish and a bit pretentious to put one in. Do the editors out there choose a style and stick with it no matter what in a given text?
  18. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    Kotuku33, this is something that many members feel quite passionate about :), so I've merged your question with one of the earlier threads on this topic. I hope some of your questions are answered in this thread, but if not, you're welcome to add to it.

    English Only moderator
  19. nuggets12345 Member

    <This thread has been merged with an earlier one.>

    Can someone explain to me when you do and do not put a comma before "and" when listing. Here is an example: grapes, oranges, apples, and bananas.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 22, 2015
  20. dipsota Senior Member

    Español- Buenos Aires -Argentina
    This is a style choice known as a "serial comma". Both styles are correct. I usually use: grapes, oranges, apples and bananas.
  21. Lena_Kim New Member

    <This thread has been merged with an earlier one.>

    A, B, and C / A, B and C

    Which one is correct?
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 7, 2016
  22. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    English - South-East England
    They're both correct.
  23. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    ... but may mean different things or should be used in different contexts.
  24. RedwoodGrove

    RedwoodGrove Senior Member

    English, USA
    It's the "Oxford Comma" problem. In general I prefer the final comma, but my observation has been that in modern editing commas are being done away with as much as possible. If you find that the final comma adds clarity, then use it. If you find it is awkward and unnecessary, then don't use it.
  25. lingvoforum New Member

    New question added to previous thread.
    Cagey, moderator


    is there any difference concerning the use of coma in the following sentences:

    Quizzes on content, vocabulary, grammar and writing

    Evaluation of content, reading, listening, grammar, and vocabulary.

    Context: enumeration. Are the both sentences correct? Or should there be also a coma before the word "and" in the first sentence?

    Thank you.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 19, 2017
  26. lingvoforum New Member

  27. DonnyB

    DonnyB Senior Member

    Coventry, UK
    English UK Southern Standard English
    I would say that in your example you can probably do it either way, with or without the comma. If it were my sentence, I'd omit it. :)

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