the usage of comma(,)

moldova

Member
Korean_South Korea
Hello. I was reading a sentence from The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True by Richard Dawkins.

"The enormous explosion of a supernova scatters all the elements that the star, and then the supernova, have made, including the elements necessary for life, far and wide through space."

In the above sentence, are the commas before and after the phrase "and then the supernova" necessary?
In the relative clause, the verb "have" is plural.
Thus I think the commas aren't necessary.

Please explain the reason why the commas were used like this. Or it is just a grammatical mistake?
 
  • Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    I imagine the author wants a dramatic pause there to highlight the fact that it's really a two-stage process. If you don't want that kind of separation, then you can leave the commas out:

    "The enormous explosion of a supernova scatters all the elements that the star and then the supernova have made – including the elements necessary for life – far and wide through space."

    I dashed it because "the elements necessary for life" is fairly dramatic itself, considering that we're here typing each other. :)

    This would give it two dramatic beats with two fewer commas:
    "The enormous explosion of a supernova scatters all the elements that the star, and then the supernova, have made – including the elements necessary for life – far and wide through space."

    It's all style and what you want to emphasize and how you go about doing that.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    This is a "parenthetical clause", which must be in parentheses or in commas (or in dashes). It's true that "have" should be "has" in the noun phrase "all the elements that the star has made", which is what you get after removing the parenthetical clause.

    You could write the sentence without commas if you removed "then", leaving "elements that the star and the supernova have made".

    Note that the supernova is the star, so it would be more correct to write "elements that the star (including the supernova) has made".

    But the writer wants to say "elements that the star made, and then, (different) elements that the supernova made". He is willing to give up correctness to say that in a way that seems clear to him. Either that, or he did not notice his mistakes.

    (cross-posted)
     
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