1 2 3
Hi,

I am going to ask about three sentences. I will give you two options to choose from in each instance.

Where I have difficulty is when I have a subordinate clause buried in the middle of the sentence. I will try to elaborate where I have difficulty in each of the three sentences.

*** #***

(original version--my preference)

Mr. Johnston and his son have applied for a patent in the US, and if you believe the documentation, they also have foreign patents.

(modified--correct?)

Mr. Johnston and his son have applied for a patent in the US, and, if you believe the documentation, they also have foreign patents.

Note the additional comma after "and". But if I were to say this sentence out loud, I wouldn't pause after the "and." So, to me, this additional comma doesn't belong. Yet, I want to be correct. Also, the "if you believe the documentation" seems to me to be a restrictive clause, so I don't want to set it off.

*** #***

(original version below)

Analyzing the data reveals public support of conflict, for as environmental issues become a variable, attitudes towards war become more complex.

(modified version)

Analyzing the data reveals public support of conflict, for, as environmental issues become a variable, attitudes towards war become more complex.

Very similar to the Sentence #1.

Where I have specific difficulty is the comma punctuation after the coordinating conjunction leading into the subordinate clause. To my thinking, if the subordinate clause is not long or if you would not pause in your speach at that specific point, then no comma is required.

*** #***

(original version below)

As long as the building can be used for other purposes, the risk to the city is mitigated because should the company fold, the city can sell or lease the building to another third party.

(modified version)

As long as the building can be used for other purposes, the risk to the city is mitigated because, should the company fold, the city can sell or lease the building to another third party.

This sentence follows the same sort of theme. The introductory clause is set off with a comma. The "because clause" is restrictive, so it ought NOT be set off with a comma. To my thinking, the "should the company fold" clause is also restrictive so it too should not be set off with a comma, but the following "the city can selll or lease the building to another third party" should be set off.

I am most appreciative of your throughts as to how I should think about these sentences. Complex sentences like the ones above always cause me a bit of grief.

Thank you.
MountainHiker
Senior Member2,528
Trusted Users: Trusted users are allowed to use additional capabilities of the site such as private messaging to all users and various other advanced features. You cannot join this role unless you are promoted by an administrator.
By far the best advice I can give you is to break these sort of sentences into two. Writing long sentences filled with commas - correctly placed or not - is a bad habit that needs dropping if you are serious about improving your writing.

Mr. Johnston and his son have applied for a patent in the US, and, if you believe the documentation, they also have foreign patents.
Mr. Johnston and his son have applied for a patent in the U.S. If you believe their documentation, they also have foreign patents.

As long as the building can be used for other purposes, the risk to the city is mitigated because should the company fold, the city can sell or lease the building to another third party.
As long as the building can be used for other purposes, the risk to the city is mitigated. Should the company fold, the city can sell or lease the building to another third party.

In sentence #2, I don't understand what "as environmental issues become a variable" means, so I don't know how best to break it up.

Regarding the longer versions, my preferences are as follows:

Sentence #1: I would set it off with dashes:
Mr. Johnston and his son have applied for a patent in the US and - if you believe the documentation - they also have foreign patents.

Sentence #2: original version.

Sentence #3: original version
Full Member287
Proficient Speaker: Users in this role are known to maintain an excellent grasp of the English language. You can only be promoted to this role by the Englishforums team.
Hello, MountainHiker Emotion: smile

I hope I can help you here. Some commas are required, some others seem to be optional.

Sentence #1
I'm not sure I like either, but the 'corrected' version seems better. I, however, will suggest yet a third option:
"Mr. Johnston and his son have applied for a patent in the US and, if you believe the documentation, they also have foreign patents."

"if you believe the documentation" is a sort of comment clause and 'and' is not a part of it. The conjunction 'and' is coordinating the two main clauses "Mr Johnston...the US" and "they also have foreign patents". The conditional clause is subordinated to the second main clause even thought it might appear confusing due to its position in the sentence. I think it is a good idea to use commas at the beginning and the end of it to separate it from the main sentence (the two main clauses). If the conditional clause appeared at the end of the sentence, then a cmma before 'if' would be optional (I'd use it myself).

Sentence #2
Yes, I agree this case is similar to sentence #1.
But I prefer the corrected version here.
As with the first example, the comma before 'for' could be omitted, yet I think the sentence looks better with a comma.
In this sentence there is one subordinate clause inside another subordinate clause, so you need the comma to separate them.
"for attitudes towards war become more complex" is one of the clauses, "as environmental issues become a variable" is the other. 'For' introduces the first clause, 'as' the second. Even when you would surely understand the meaning of the sentence without any commas, I think the comma before 'as' is required, as I said, to separate both subordinate clauses.

Sentence #3
The corrected version is definitely better. The clause of reason/cause is really nether restrictive nor non-restrictive. A comma is usually not needed before such clauses, but one is needed, in this sentence, after 'because' for the same reason it was needed in sentence #2: you have one subordinate clause within another.
The clause "should the company fold" is a conditional clause. It could be rewritten as "if the company folds/folded". So, again, the comma will serve the purpose of separating one subordinate clause from the other.
as in the second sentence, also, the conditional clause could appear at the end of the sentence and, in that case, the somma would not be needed.

If this explanation is not clear enough, please don't hesitate to post your doubts again.

Miriam
Regular Member826
Retired Moderator: A moderator who has retired.Teachers: Users in this role are certified teachers. This may include DELTA, CELTA, TESOL, TEFL qualified professionals. Email a scan of your qualification to an admin, if you wish to be considered.
Hi Miriam,

Thank you for the time and effort to respond to my questions.

<<"if you believe the documentation" is a sort of comment clause and 'and' is not a part of it. The conjunction 'and' is coordinating the two main clauses "Mr Johnston...the US" and "they also have foreign patents". The conditional clause is subordinated to the second main clause even thought it might appear confusing due to its position in the sentence. I think it is a good idea to use commas at the beginning and the end of it to separate it from the main sentence (the two main clauses). If the conditional clause appeared at the end of the sentence, then a cmma before 'if' would be optional (I'd use it myself).>>

Generally I agree with your comments above. Where I might differ is where you wrote, "I think it is a good idea to use commas at the beginning and the end of it to separate it from the main sentence (the two main clauses)." This is where I struggle.

Let's focus in on that part of the sentence for a moment.

Just for completeness, I will repeat the entire compound-complex sentence.

A) Mr. Johnston and his son have applied for a patent in the US, and if you believe the documentation, they also have foreign patents.

Now, let's drop off the first main clause, so we're left with the following:

B) And if you believe the documentation, they also have foreign patents.

That, to me, seems perfectly reasonable. You could write:

C) And, if you believe the documentation, they also have foreign patents.

But the way I would say it out loud (I'm a native English speaker), I wouldn't pause after "And", so I am inclined to *** put a comma there.

Might there be a difference between "informal" and "formal" writing? But even there I wonder.

Moving on the second sentence.

<Yes, I agree this case is similar to sentence #1.
But I prefer the corrected version here.>>

I will repeat the sentences for clarity and completeness.

Sentence 2 orginal: Analyzing the data reveals public support of conflict, for as environmental issues become a variable, attitudes towards war become more complex.

Sentence 2 modified: Analyzing the data reveals public support of conflict, for, as environmental issues become a variable, attitudes towards war become more complex.

<>

Here I disagree. The "for" functions as a coordinating conjunction, so I think the comma prior to the "for" needs to be included. I think it is the comma proceeding the "for" that is up for grabs.

I think this is a bit of a goofy sentence because I don't understand it completely. I had seen it used on a now defunct grammar site where the first version was the "correct" version. They didn't provide the second example, so I don't know how they would have viewed the second sentence. But as I was reading their sentence, my eye immediately caught the "for as" with no comma. I said to myself, "ah hah, so are they right or are they wrong?"

<"for attitudes towards war become more complex" is one of the clauses, "as environmental issues become a variable" is the other. 'For' introduces the first clause, 'as' the second. Even when you would surely understand the meaning of the sentence without any commas, I think the comma before 'as' is required, as I said, to separate both subordinate clauses.>>

Where I differ is if I were to say the sentence out loud, I wouldn't pause after the "for". Or I might if I wanted to shift emphasis, but normally I wouldn't. Also, the clause "as environmental issue become variable" seems to me to be restrictive, so I am inclined to not use a comma to set it off.

<The corrected version is definitely better. The clause of reason/cause is really nether restrictive nor non-restrictive. A comma is usually not needed before such clauses, but one is needed, in this sentence, after 'because' for the same reason it was needed in sentence #2: you have one subordinate clause within another.
The clause "should the company fold" is a conditional clause. It could be rewritten as "if the company folds/folded". So, again, the comma will serve the purpose of separating one subordinate clause from the other.
as in the second sentence, also, the conditional clause could appear at the end of the sentence and, in that case, the somma would not be needed.>>

Original: As long as the building can be used for other purposes, the risk to the city is mitigated because should the company fold, the city can sell or lease the building to another third party.

Modified: As long as the building can be used for other purposes, the risk to the city is mitigated because, should the company fold, the city can sell or lease the building to another third party.

Yes, this really is the same debate isn't it?

If I understand you correctly, your primary motivation for wanting for set off the "should" with a comma is, "...for the same reason it was needed in sentence #2: you have one subordinate clause within another."

Is that always true though? If I use my speech as my guide, I would not pause after the "because" and that is my primary reason wanting to omit the comma.

<>

I can almost hear people thinking that I seem fixed on a particular solution. That is not the case. Rather I am looking for a solid rationale as to when I must include or can exclude commas in these compound, complex sentences. I have read through a couple grammar books looking for a solution, but their sentences are usually simpler. I haven't seen an example where this is covered well.

I am not sure if we can further refine our thinking here. I could put the commas in, I suppose, but because it conflicts with the way I would usually say the sentence out loud, it makes me feel a bit uncomfortable.

Even this prior sentence above falls into the same trap. Should there, must there, be a comma after the word "but." In other words, should it be written:

I am not sure if we can further refine our thinking here. I could put the commas in, I suppose, but, because it conflicts with the way I would usually say the sentence out loud, it makes me feel a bit uncomfortable.

So you see, this is a common problem for me. Emotion: big smile So I am just trying to get a better understanding.

MountainHiker
Trusted Users: Trusted users are allowed to use additional capabilities of the site such as private messaging to all users and various other advanced features. You cannot join this role unless you are promoted by an administrator.
Hello again, MountainHiker.

It was my pleasure to respond.

I'm sorry you didn't find my explanation solid enough; I'm afraid I don't have any 'alternatives' to offer in this particular case. If you don't feel comfortable with the commas because they conflict with the way you would say the sentences out loud, and if you think you can trust your feelings in this matter, then by all means omit the commas. You are a native speaker of English and I am not, and I am aware that many of the rules I have learned are not always followed by native speakers. If your actual speech is accepted, I do not see why your written sentences would not.

Surely someone with feelings akin to yours will read this thread and post an answer more to your liking. You can also follow Dave's advice; even when his feelings seem a bit different from yours, I believe English is his first language. Emotion: smile

Miriam
Retired Moderator: A moderator who has retired.Teachers: Users in this role are certified teachers. This may include DELTA, CELTA, TESOL, TEFL qualified professionals. Email a scan of your qualification to an admin, if you wish to be considered.
Hi Miriam,

I very much enjoyed both your responses. I think my question is quite difficult, so I appreciate everyone's opinion. And as you correctly pointed out, it might even be a matter of taste or preference.

I am being a bit pedantic with my question. Maybe more than a bit, Emotion: smile. I suspect most people probably wouldn't care, one way or the other.

I am searching for the "Holy Grail" where someone writes, "I understand your question perfectly, and here are the rules concerning your question." But perhaps there are no rules.

With regard to Dave's advice. Yes, it is solid advice. However, l like to mix up my sentences. Some are short, some are long, some are simple, some are complex, and some are various combinations. My speech is very much like that as well. So I just want to have the confidence of knowing what I have written is correct from a grammatical point of view.

I looked at your profile and saw you are from Argentina. That's terrific. I have always wanted to visit your country. I understand it is a beautiful country.

Could I ask you a couple of Spanish grammar questions offline? I notice that there isn't a method to send you a private e-mail on this board. So I will provide you with a temporary and public e-mail address for now. Because this board is public and open to spam bots, I am being cautious with my address. My e-mail is mountainhiker @ mail138.com. I put extra spaces in hopes of thwarting the spam bots that scan the Internet looking for addresses.

I just want to reiterate that I am appreciative of your assistance. My question is difficult. I am normally very good with grammar type stuff, so I know my question is challenging.

Again, thank you.
Trusted Users: Trusted users are allowed to use additional capabilities of the site such as private messaging to all users and various other advanced features. You cannot join this role unless you are promoted by an administrator.
I should think 'commas' are an important part of the written language and should be used to help you clarify your thoughts and feelings. I am particularly very fond of them as they are visually highly effective in helping us to understand the meaning of the lines, above all in poetry and songs. It's a good way of joining thoughts.
Senior Member4,756
Maj,

<>

Yes, but they can be pesky little devils.

I don't think English grammar is rigid. I think there is a lot of room for style. It is also probably much more important that one be consistent in their writing. I am going to have watch very closely articles in the more popular magazines to see if I can see how they treat the same topic.

Thank you.
Trusted Users: Trusted users are allowed to use additional capabilities of the site such as private messaging to all users and various other advanced features. You cannot join this role unless you are promoted by an administrator.
MountainHiker,
Of curse you can ask me about Spanish. I see you are still online. Perhaps we could meet in the chatroom here on the forums? To me personally it would be much easier than using emails.
Your question was not difficult really. It was just that, sometimes, when feelings are involved, rules don't seem to count much.

Miriam

And now you're not! Perhaps tomorrow?
Retired Moderator: A moderator who has retired.Teachers: Users in this role are certified teachers. This may include DELTA, CELTA, TESOL, TEFL qualified professionals. Email a scan of your qualification to an admin, if you wish to be considered.
Show more
Live chat
Registered users can join here