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Hi,

I am confused. Which of the sentences are correct?

He stated that the building is tall and that the airplane is long.

He stated that the building is tall, and that the airplane is long.

He stated that the building is tall but that the building is badly designed.

He stated that the building is tall, but that the building is badly designed.

I am thinking the two sentences without the comma are correct because the second clause is not a complete one.

But many sources, including New Yorker, have used a comma in such sentence structures...

Please help! Thanks.
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Comments  
The traditional rule with 'and' is that you should use a comma if the subject in the second clause is different from that in the first clause, but you should not use one if the second clause uses the same subject (usually not repeated). So, in your sentences where the subject (he) is the same, it's wisest not to use a comma.

However, with the conjunction 'but', a comma is required.

In each of your sentences the second clause is complete (for analysis/punctuation purposes). Although the subject ('he') and the verb ('stated') are omitted, they are what are known as 'ellipted', (left out to avoid repetition). Once the ellipsis is 'filled out' each one can stand as a main clause. That's why the punctuation is the same as if the clause was written 'in full'.

BillJ
I am still unclear as to why "and" and "but" constructions are different if we are assuming that "he stated" is omitted.

I found the following:

Charlie must learn that eating all those sweets may give him a temporary pleasure but that it's not good for his heart and that he would feel better about himself if he stopped eating all those rich and sweet foods that are not good for him.

http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/quizzes/indep_clause_quiz.htm

The site specifies that the sentence above is correct without any comma. It states that the only independent clause is "charlie must learn" and that the rest is all a dependent clause...

Can you elaborate?

Thanks for the quick response.
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The point I was making is that the traditional punctuation rules for conjunctions separating main clauses like that hold true, whether or not there is some ellipsis in the second clause.

BillJ
Are you saying that it would be ok whether or not there is a comma?

Or are you saying that there must be a comma in the "but" construction?

I am very confused because I have always written sentences without a comma in such situations. But recently, I noticed taht NYT/New Yorker articles have both used/not used a comma in their sentences (don't they have an internal style guidline?)...

And that link I provided was the only grammar site that seemed to directly address this issue. But because it was only ONE source, I am still in doubt...
What I meant was that using a comma with 'but' is traditional - sorry if I didn't make that clear. The conjunction 'but', when used to introduce a clause, typically signals a contrast or opposite fact, so a short pause can be seen as helping the reader to distinguish between the elements on each side of it. I suspect that's the reason a comma before 'but' is described by some grammars as traditional.

Nevertheless, for some writers it's all about style; in other situations, avoiding ambiguity may be the priority. I've noticed that some always omit them, whilst others use a comma with 'but', though not with 'and'. You too have picked up on this inconsistency, which is causing your confusion: that's why I thought it safest to reply with the 'traditional' usage where generally you can't go too far wrong.

The point I was making about your second clauses was that, whether you view them as subordinate (you referred to them as 'not complete') or main, the punctuation 'rule' is the same.

BillJ
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Thanks for the thoughtful reply.

Yes, I always use a comma before "but" when separating two clearly independent clauses, but with this sentence structure, I have always used without.

So...are you saying that it is OK to use or not use a comma..or...are you saying that I MUST use a comma under the rules of grammar?

Sorry to keep asking the seemingly same question, but I am having some difficulty understanding your reply.

Thanks.
If you adhere to traditional rules, then yes, you should use a comma before 'but' where it separates clauses (of either type).

As I said before, I rather suspect the reason is that although the conjunction 'but' in itself signals contrasting or opposite notions, some further help from punctuation in the form of a comma serves to add a little 'ballast' to that function.

BillJ
Spot-on prescriptive grammar recommendations. I only take issue with your spelling, declension, and conjugation of the term "elide". "Ellipsis" does have the same root, but varies in spelling from the grammatical term for a stylistic omission.
BillJAlthough the subject ('he') and the verb ('stated') are omitted, they are what are known as 'elided', (left out to avoid repetition). Once the elision is 'filled out' each one can stand as a main clause.

Regards,

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