Comma Rules

When to Use Commas

Between more than two items in a series

The most popular sports in the U.S. are football, basketball, and tennis.

Eating out, swimming, and going to the movies are popular forms of entertainment.

Paul came home late, went to bed, and slept for 10 hours.


Between two or more adjectives, when the adjective positions are interchangeable

She is a strong, healthy woman.

It is over by the black, adjustable armchair.

NOTE: English adjective order generally places essential, physical, or unchanging adjectives closer to the nouns they modify.


Between two independent clauses joined with a coordinating conjunction

Fast food causes various health problems, but many people eat it to save time.

John was in a car accident, so he will be absent from class for a while.


After a dependent clause at the beginning of a sentence

When my grandparents arrived in the U.S., they had no friends.

Because the dust storm covered my car, I couldn’t recognize it in the parking lot.

Even though economics is difficult, I’m sticking with it.

If the air conditioning fails, we will probably have to cancel classes.

NOTE: If the dependent clause comes second, no comma is needed.

We will probably have to cancel classes if the air conditioning fails.


After an introductory word or phrase

My first day at SFS-Qatar was busy.  First, I went to my English class.

Yesterday, I bought some supplies for school.  For example, I bought a backpack.


Around an interrupting word or phrase

I am, by the way, very nervous about this.

She is, nevertheless, my best friend.


Around nonessential words, clauses, or phrases

My sister, who lives across the street, always watches my cats when I travel.

The tiramisu, which I had at Joe’s, was delicious!

NOTE: clauses that begin with “that” are considered essential

The tiramisu that I had at Joe’s was delicious!


Edit the sentences below for punctuation. Add commas as needed.

  1. Your uncle willed me all his properties houses and cars
  2. We play sports such as basketball volleyball squash and tennis
  3. Reading daydreaming and playing the piano were my favorite when I was a child
  4. Jake was a warm gentle affectionate Swedish giant
  5. Our teacher is tall strong smart athletic and engaging
  6. You can come today but I will be away from my desk
  7. Please don’t drink and drive or text message while driving
  8. Yesterday I hoped that I would find out how the story ended
  9. After you finish what you are doing you must close all the windows
  10. When it snows hard only grade schools will close this year
  11. With that said we all need to start working on time
  12. Near a small country river the truck was unloaded in secrecy
  13. In all likelihood you will pass the class if you attend regularly
  14. Walking alone at night which can be scary in this area gives me a sense of peace
  15. I would like you to know however that you need to work much harder
  16. That house which is across the street belongs to my nephew
  17. The car which I had in Kansas City MO was stronger and faster than this one
  18. Undoubtedly I could finish the experiment because my colleagues helped me
  19. Coffee is stronger than tea so I don’t drink as much of it
  20. Despite Rue’s best efforts she could not keep the weeds out of her garden


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