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Grammar Glossary

Grammar glossary: what words do

When you read, a comma tells you to pause a little. It shows where one group of words ends, and the next group starts.

Groups of words
A comma tells you that a group of words has ended, but the sentence is not over. Each group of words must make sense.

  Right Two men shout, but Henry can't hear them.
  Not Two men shout but Henry, can't hear them.
  Right He slides down the mud, wades into the water and swims
  Not He slides down the, mud wades into, the water and swims.

Lists
Put a comma after each item in a list, except the last two.

  There were sums about guineas, pounds, shillings and pence.
  There were sums about stones, pounds and ounces.

Joining short sentences
A comma can help join two short sentences together. Instead of a full stop, put a comma, plus: " but", "or", "because"

  The teacher calls out a sum. The children call out the answers.
  The teacher calls out a sum, but the children call out the answers.
  Henry and Fred went to school. Alfred didn't go.
  Henry and Fred went to school, but Alfred didn't go.

A pair of commas
If a sentence needs some extra words, you can:
    put in an extra word, with a comma before and after the word.
    put in an extra group of words with a comma before and after the group.
If you took out the word or words from the basic sentence, it would still be a proper sentence.

  Alf, leaning over the wall, saw a sack in the river.
  Alf saw a sack in the river.
  Mr Holloway, the art master, put an owl on the table.
  Mr Holloway put an owl on the table.
  The owl, with two glass eyes, stared at the children.
  The owl stared at the children.

Commas in letters
In business letters, or letters produced on a word processor it is no longer usual to use commas in address blocks, the name of the person or the signature block.

In handwritten letters, at the start of the letter, you can put a comma after the name of the person you are writing to.

  Dear Mr Rose,
  Dear Granny,
  Dear Sir,

If you start with commas, you finish with them: at the end of the letter, put a comma after the last words you say.

  Your sincerely,
  With best wishes,
  Lots of love,

If you write an address on one line, put a comma after each part of the address. Mrs Maria Rose, 27 Little Thames Street, Greenwich, London.

Commas in speech
When you write the words someone said, separate them from the rest of the sentence with a comma.

  “You must learn this again”, said the teacher.
  Thomas said, “Henry, you will get into trouble.”
  The man shouted, “Watch out, stupid, or you will drown.”

If you are talking to someone, and you say yes or no, or call them by their name, put a comma after the words yes or no, or the name.

  “Henry, you will get into trouble.”
  “Yes, I know”, said Henry.
  “No, I won’t”, said Henry.

Put a comma before a question at the end of a sentence.

  It's peanuts, isn't it?
  You're coming to the park, aren't you?
  You don’t want to swim, do you?

If you are talking about a person by name, you don't need to put commas around their name. Example:

  Right The shop assistant gave Henry four buns.
  Not The shop assistant gave, Henry, four buns.

 

 
What words do
Adverbs
Adjectives
Conjunctions and joining words
Nouns
Prepositions
Pronouns
Punctuation and commas
Sentences
Verbs
Glossary

Glossary

Grammar Glossary

Grammar glossary: what words do

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