comma before 'though' [adverb, end position]: they do that, though?

Idunnoanymore

Member
American English
Sorry for the similarities with my last question but I see this slightly differently.

I'm always confused as to whether I should put a comma before words such as "though."
Example: Why would they do that, though?

Lots of respected journalists always put a comma before "though" and I never know what to do. Is one technically more correct than the other, or are they both correct?
 
  • lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    Well, here the "though" is used as a kind of interjection. Imagine yourself saying it: wouldn't you pause between the "that" and the "though"? The comma goes in to mark that pause. An example might be "Serious faults with the original plan had begun to emerge, though."

    There wouldn't be a comma where there wouldn't be a pause. Compare to:

    "Though why should she care?"
     

    Idunnoanymore

    Member
    American English
    Yeah, you're right. That was a bad example. Um... I can't think of any good examples, though. ... Well, how about that:

    "I can't think of any good examples, though." <-- The "though" in that sentence seems off-kilter. I feel like it pushes the reader to pause for longer than intended in this instance and that the comma is a distraction which breaks up the flow of the sentence.

    At the same time, a "though" at the end of a sentence is always an interjection, right? So if interjections are always separated by a comma (are they?) then I guess it follows that a "though" at the end of a sentence would always have a comma before it. Am I following this correctly?
     
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    EStjarn

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    ...a "though" at the end of a sentence is always an interjection, right?

    Both AHD and Collins English Dictionary classify 'though' as a conjunction and an adverb; there's no mention of it being an interjection.

    ...a "though" at the end of a sentence would always have a comma before it.

    Here's a thread on a forum for "linguists, etymologists and serious English language enthusiasts" that addresses the question "Should there be a comma before 'though' when it occurs at the end of a sentence?" The example sentence discussed: I don't know how outdated it is though. The general consensus seems to be that the comma is optional. One argument for using it is that it signals a pause that precedes 'though'. One argument for not using it is that the text "reads a little cleaner."
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Although it may be possible to put a pause in there, I don't think there normally is. As this adverb is a single syllable and can't be followed by anything else in this position, it's hard to tell whether it has a slight rising intonation of its own (indicating it's a separate intonation phrase) or whether it continues the downward intonation of the main phrase before it. My feeling, for what it's worth, is that it's an integrated part of the clause. But in medial position it can be said either separated or integrated too:

    Why, though, would they do that? [fall-rise on \/why, then another on \/though]
    Why though would they do that? [fairly level until \that, as in unmistakably integrated 'Why on earth would they do that?']

    Commas are very, very often optional.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    My tuppence-worth:

    "I can't think of any good examples, though" = "Though I can't think of any good examples."


    The "I can't think of any good examples though" type of construction is used when a chain of thought has been finished and a new sentence is required. However, though is a subordinating conjunction and, "Though I can't think of any good examples." is a clause.

    Thus, a sentence has to be created by placing though at the end and the comma is required, to separate it from the sentence.

    It's a tag-conjunction!
     

    Idunnoanymore

    Member
    American English
    Your answers are all great but there seems to be disagreement, and, hence, I'm still confused.

    PaulQ - You're saying that "though" at the end of a sentence requires a comma every time? Why must "though" be separated from the sentence when they seem to get along just fine without the comma? Your answer was thorough but I'm still not following.

    And if it is indeed optional then am I forced to pick one form or the other and stick with it? What if I don't want to put commas before "though" for the most part, except for the odd times where I actually do want to direct the reader to a slight pause? Would that be seen as inconsistent?
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Idunnoanymore - it seems like you are looking for rules to guide you. However, in many cases there are no rules available and you have to make some choices. You will be fine if you only use a comma where you want the effect of a pause. There are many areas of English where the retrospective analysis does not lead to clear-cut rules and there never were any prospective rules before we started speaking the language :(
     
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