Need clear difference between "who....." and ", who....."

momoko823

New Member
Japanese
Dear folks,

I need your help understand difference between the following texts:

"Ken is as old as Bill, who can not drive a car"

"Ken is as old as Bill who can not drive a car"

Thank you.

Best regards,
Momoko
 
  • Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    "Ken is as old as Bill, who cannot drive a car." Ken is as old as Bill. Bill cannot drive a car.
    "Ken is as old as Bill who cannot drive a car." Ken is as old as the Bill who cannot drive a car, but he's younger than the Bill who never showers.
     

    momoko823

    New Member
    Japanese
    "Ken is as old as Bill, who cannot drive a car." Ken is as old as Bill. Bill cannot drive a car.
    "Ken is as old as Bill who cannot drive a car." Ken is as old as the Bill who cannot drive a car, but he's younger than the Bill who never showers.
    Hi Copyright, thank you for your explanation. However, I'm afraid that I can not understand what "who never showers" refers to here. Is it important for Bill or Ken to take a shower?
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    It's just my reference to two different men named Bill. You could think of them as Bill Smith and Bill Jones. Does that help?
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    Essentially, the second sentence is wrong; the comma is needed. Without the comma, it would sound as if you were talking about two different men named Bill, one who can't drive a car and one who can. Both Copyright and I are pretty sure that's not what you intended.

    By the way, cannot is one word, not two—although we normally use the shorter version, can't.
     

    souplady

    Senior Member
    english - united states
    Essentially, the second sentence is wrong; the comma is needed. Without the comma, it would sound as if you were talking about two different men named Bill, one who can't drive a car and one who can. Both Copyright and I are pretty sure that's not what you intended.

    By the way, cannot is one word, not two—although we normally use the shorter version, can't.
    The sentence isn't necessarily wrong. It depends on the context. Essentially if you use the comma, it means that the information that follows it is not necessary for the sentence to make sense. If you don't use the comma, then the information is important.

    Ken is as old as Bill, who cannot drive a car.
    Ken is as old as Bill. Also, Bill cannot drive a car, but that's separate information that's not related to the ages of Ken and Bill.

    Ken is as old as Bill who cannot drive a car.
    Ken is as old as Bill. The Bill I'm talking about is the one who cannot drive a car. There may be other Bills (such as one who never showers). The lack of comma implies that this information is necessary to distinguish which Bill.
     

    Enquiring Mind

    Senior Member
    English - the Queen's
    Hi momoko823, grammar notes often refer to this use of the comma in terms of the following clause being a defining relative clause, or a non-defining relative clause.

    Ken is as old as Bill, who cannot drive a car. As explained in the previous posts, "who cannot drive a car" just adds more information about Bill, information that is not needed to help us understand the first clause. Here the second clause is a non-defining clause: it doesn't define which Bill we are taking about, it just gives us unnecessary additional information about him. In a non-defining clause, we use a comma.

    Ken is as old as Bill who cannot drive a car. Here the second clause "who cannot drive a car" tells us which Bill we are talking about. It defines that particular person Bill who is as old as Ken. We're not talking about Bill who goes paragliding every weekend. We're not talking about Bill who writes books. We talking about Bill who cannot drive a car. This is the Bill who is the same age as Ken, not the other Bills. In a defining clause, we don't use a comma.

    Students who hand in their assignments late will be penalised. Only those students who hand in their assignments late will be penalised. The clause "who hand in their assignments late" is a defining clause, it defines which students will be penalised. Students who don't hand in their assignments late won't be penalised.

    Students, who hand in their assignments late, will be penalised. All students will be penalised. Handing in their assignments late is something that all students do. This is a non-defining clause, it doesn't tell us which students will be penalised. It just gives additional (but unnecessary) information about students.

    There's more here (source: dictionary.cambridge.org).
     
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