comma before 'but' [conjunction]: lounge is empty, but Jack and Jill

user_gary

Banned
India - Hindi
The lounge of Jack and Jill's villa at New Hampstead. The essential furniture consists of a table, on whcih are writing materials, and two chairs. As the curtain rises the lounge is empty, but Jack and Jill come in immediately, followed by Aunt Jane.

Could you explain me why the comma (the pink coloured) has been used here?
 
  • Trisia

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    Actually, I'd add another comma :D

    The lounge of Jack and Jill's villa at New Hampstead. The essential furniture consists of a table, on which there are writing materials (what's that supposed to mean? Stationery?) and two chairs. As the curtain rises, the lounge is empty, but Jack and Jill come in immediately, followed by Aunt Jane.
    Sorry, my grammar is very rusty. I'll leave to others to provide meaningful explanations. I'm with the basiscs :D
     

    Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    The lounge of Jack and Jill's villa at New Hampstead. The essential furniture consists of a table, on whcih are writing materials, and two chairs. As the curtain rises the lounge is empty, but Jack and Jill come in immediately, followed by Aunt Jane.

    Could you explain me why the comma (the pink coloured) has been used here?
    This is the way I would write it:

    The lounge of Jack and Jill's villa at New Hampstead. The essential furniture consists of a table on whcih are writing materials, and two chairs. As the curtain rises, the lounge is emptybut Jack and Jill come in immediately,followed by Aunt Jane.

    I have deleted the comma after "table" and after "empty" as I believe that they are unnecessary. I agree with Trisia that there should be a comma after "rises".
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    The lounge of Jack and Jill's villa at New Hampstead. The essential furniture consists of a table, on whcih are writing materials, and two chairs. As the curtain rises the lounge is empty, but Jack and Jill come in immediately, followed by Aunt Jane.

    Could you explain me why the comma (the pink coloured) has been used here?
    I'll start with the second "pink" comma. It is there to separate "immediately" from "followed" because the author does not want you to think "immediately followed".

    The first "pink" comma is not required according to some writers, but is there to improve the readability. One issue is that the tone of the voice rises at "empty" and the comma imitates the intonation. Another thing that sometimes happens if you habitually don't separate "but" from a preceding clause is confusion with what the conjunction is intended to coordinate: "The person responsible was not the butler summoned but the plumber who was already there believed it was." This last sentence needs a comma before "but".

    There should also be a comma between "rises" and "the lounge". Because the adverb phrase occurs before the subject of the main clause, the comma is needed to signal that the main clause begins with "the lounge". Otherwise a person may (temporarily) imagine that the adverb clause says "the curtain rises the lounge".

    The implication of the commas in the preceding sentence (about the table and chairs) is that a table is part of the essential furniture with or without the writing materials, but the writing materials are also present on the table. Without the commas, the implication would be that the table requires the writing materials (and the two chairs) for it to be essential as well as that the chairs are on the table with the writing materials.
     

    Ecossaise

    Senior Member
    English
    Since this is presumably stage directions for a play, I think the comma can be omitted. It is indicating that the stage is empty when the curtain goes up and then the characters come on stage, followed by another character.
     

    river

    Senior Member
    U.S. English
    "When independent clauses are joined by but, or any other conjunctin, a comma precedes the conjunction. If the clauses are very short, the comma may be omitted."

    As the curtain rises the lounge is empty, but Jack and Jill come in immediately, followed by Aunt Jane.



    "A very short introductory phrase does not require a comma except to avoid misunderstanding." So a comma isn't necessary after "rises." I don't see how that could be misread - we don't rise things.
     

    AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    "When independent clauses are joined by but, or any other conjunctin, a comma precedes the conjunction. If the clauses are very short, the comma may be omitted."

    As the curtain rises the lounge is empty, but Jack and Jill come in immediately, followed by Aunt Jane.
    I agree with river. That coordinating conjunction requires a comma before it in this sentence.

    I'm confused by the opening phrase: The lounge of Jack and Jill's villa at New Hampstead.

    Something's missing here because it doesn't make sense. If it's a stage set-up, I would use a colon, I think.

    The lounge of Jack and Jill's villa at New Hampstead:


    AngelEyes
     

    Starbuck

    Senior Member
    USA/English
    The lounge of Jack and Jill's villa at New Hampstead. The essential furniture consists of a table, on whcih are writing materials, and two chairs. As the curtain rises the lounge is empty, but Jack and Jill come in immediately, followed by Aunt Jane.

    Could you explain me why the comma (the pink coloured) has been used here?
    Gary,

    Here's the standard English convention:

    As the curtain rises, (comma after introductory dependent clause)

    the lounge is empty, (comma before a coordinating conjunction that separates two independent clauses)

    but Jack and Jill come in immediately, (comma here for clarity since the sentence, I'm assuming, means that Jack and Jill entered immediately and then were followed by Aunt Jane, rather than the two of them entered, immediately followed by Aunt Jane, which doesn't mean quite the same thing.

    Hope this helps,
    Starbuck :)
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Some commas are placed because of grammar; others are placed because you "hear" them.

    When I say, "you 'hear' them", I mean that you "hear" a pause in the reading of the sentence. The commas are placed to facilitate the reader in knowing where the pauses are.

    Read this sentence aloud with no pauses:

    As the curtain rises the lounge is empty, but Jack and Jill come in immediately, followed by Aunt Jane.

    Then re-read it aloud with the pauses as indicated by the commas.

    Does it sound more natural and comprehensible with the pauses? It does to me.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Something's missing here because it doesn't make sense. If it's a stage set-up, I would use a colon, I think.

    The lounge of Jack and Jill's villa at New Hampstead:

    AngelEyes
    I think the period is traditionally placed. For example:

    ACT II.
    1. SCENE I. A wood near Athens.

    (from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream)

    Tradition says, scene number - period - location - period.

    EDIT: In BE, scene number - full stop - location - full stop.
     

    AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    Ferero,

    Reading it your way, I absolutely see your point. (Or your period, I suppose.)

    :)


    AngelEyes
     
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