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Comma-grammatic

Cem

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Dear English Speakers, I am learning English in a German school. But they don't teached us how we use commas. In german we use it before constructions, for example a german sentence which means "I am eating apples because I love them": ,,Ich esse Äpfel, weil ich diese liebe" (weil = because), so in english class test it is a mistake if I use a comma before "because". So could you tell me how you use comma in english? I'm sorry for my language mistake because it is very hard to learn languages for me. I thank you for your help!
 

Lothor

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Hi Cem,

Welcome to the forum!

I work as a proofreader and in my reference book on punctuation (How to Punctuate by George Davidson), which has one chapter for each punctuation mark, the chapter on commas is by far the longest in the book. Although there are places where commas are definitely needed, there is a large amount of variation in their use among writers in English. Even the use of a final comma in a list, known as the series comma ("apples, pears, and bananas" or "apples, pears and bananas"), has been argued over, with Americans preferring the series comma and British preferring no series comma - but not always!

For "because" (and quite a few other words such as "if", "when", "as"), a general rule is that if it is at the start of a sentence, you use a comma ("Because the sky is high, it blows my mind" - The Beatles. "If I were a good man, I'd talk to you more often than I do" - Pink Floyd). If it isn't, then don't use one ("I'll finish this message soon because it's getting late" and "I'll be sad if you don't reply to this message"). It's acceptable to break these rules if you know what you are doing and you are consistent, and occasionally I will add a comma before a "because" if the explanation is really long, just to give the reader a quick pause. However, you won't go wrong if you follow these rules and it will keep your teacher happy.

There are many many other rules/guidelines on commas so I can't give you a full explanation, but next time you have a comma question, I'll do my best to answer.
 

Buntaro

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("apples, pears, and bananas" or "apples, pears and bananas")

I have heard that both forms are correct, providing the writer uses them consistently.

I agree that "I am eating apples because I love them" is correct.

(I speak American English.)
 
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Majestic

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Series/Serial Comma (aka "Oxford Comma").
I found this good bit on the internet;

Unless you’re writing for a particular publication or drafting an essay for school, whether or not you use the Oxford comma is generally up to you. However, omitting it can sometimes cause some strange misunderstandings.

Example: I love my parents, Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty.
 

Lothor

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Agree with above comments. I follow the preference of the style guide I have been asked to use, and if I have no guide I let the author decide and check they are being consistent and that their commas don't actually cause any problems. Majestic - you might like this similar example of where the lack of a series comma (also sometimes called an Oxford comma) is a problem. Another example where one is definitely better is in lists that already contain an "and". "Examples of cockney rhyming slang are apples and pears, trouble and strife, and Adam and Eve."
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