comma before 'but'/'or' [conjunction]: Hurry up, or you will be late.

bmo

Senior Member
Taiwan
For the following three groups, I think the correct answers are 1, 2, 1. Am I right?

1. Hurry up, or you will be late.
2. Hurry up or you will be late.

1. That girl is not pretty but polite.
2. That girl is not pretty, but she is polite.
3. That girl is not pretty but she is polite.

1. Stop making noise, or you will be punished.
2. Stop making noise or you will be punished

Thanks.
 
  • estudiante2102

    Member
    English/French/Spanish/Russian
    I absolutely disagree with you, Dimcl.

    The original answers are correct, to the best of my knowledge. You would use a comma in the first sentence. You would use the second answer in the second example, and the first answer in the last example.

    Based on the rules of independent clauses, dependent clauses, and phrases, the answers chosen by bmo are correct.

    ~Elizabeth
     

    Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    I'll concede my error with respect to the second set of sentences... the answer in that case is #1 - "that girl is not pretty, but polite". I stand by my previous post that the other answers are both 2. I'm not sure I understand your reasoning, Elizabeth - why would you place commas before "or" and "but"? Where would you put the commas in:

    "Come to my house by 9:00 or we will be late for the party"

    "That fellow is very talented but can't find a job"
     

    Nullomore

    Senior Member
    English (USA), Cantonese (Hong Kong)
    If i remember correctly from high school grammar, the idea behind independent clauses is this: If the clause can be sentence all by itself, then a comma is necessary.

    If this is true, then it seems that bmo's answers were all correct.
     

    clairanne

    Senior Member
    english UK
    As far as British English goes you can use either form in the first two examples but the last one should have no comma.
    you can also say Hurry up! or you will be late. (no 1)

    In the second example no 1 sounds stilted and I wouldn't use it. In England we no longer put commas before "but" and "and" routinely although I believe you will find it in some older literature.
     

    Lazarus

    Member
    Ukraine
    But in this example:

    I was busy, and that's why I didn't notice it.

    the comma is put correctly, right?
     

    LouisaB

    Senior Member
    English, UK
    I'm afraid I agree with bmo, Elizabeth and Nullomore - I'd use commas in all those places. This may, of course, make me a writer of older literature...:D

    The 'independent clauses' rule holds up well here in all three cases, but after years of teaching it, I've found the best rule in the end is simply the old one of reading something aloud. If you need to pause or change the timbre of your voice to convey the sense easily - then you also need a comma. A comma used in this way also expresses your own individual 'voice'...

    LouisaB
     

    Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    Well, it looks like I'm outvoted on this one!:D I was taught that commas were not needed in these circumstances primarily because the "or" and "but" take the place of the pause! Hey, blame it on the Ontario school system under which I was taught!;)

    I was also taught the "read aloud" rule of thumb but when I read these sentences aloud, I see no reason for a pause before "or" and "but" even though they are "independent clauses".

    And, no, I wouldn't use the comma in Lazarus' sentence:

    I was busy(,) and that's why I didn't notice it.

    Thanks for the lesson, folks... now I'm going to be paranoid about this issue!:)
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I would put the comma in:
    2. That girl is not pretty, but she is polite.

    Nowhere else.
    But then I am strongly influenced by the "how does it read?" school.
    Maybe if I add that I am a fully paid up and active reader-aloud it would help?
    No, I thought not.

    In fact, I think I might even extend that comma to a semicolon.
     

    Joelline

    Senior Member
    American English
    Hi bmo,
    Your answers are correct under the system that I was taught: If you have 2 independent clauses joined by one of the 7 coordinate conjunctions (and, but, so, yet, or, nor, for), you need to use a comma before the coordinate conjunction. Such sentences are called "compound sentences."
    Joelline
     

    clairanne

    Senior Member
    english UK
    we are not taught grammar in english lessons in this country and I got my slant on punctuation from my OSR typing exams that I took in 2003. Come to think about it I wasn't taught english grammar in 1970 when I took my school exams either so I will bow out now - but I agree with Dimcl on this one. You can try putting GB english into MSN word and it will usually tell you if something is wrong - although you can choose to ignore it.
     
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