+0
In using commas in participle phrases, some grammar books say that if a participle phrase comes at the end of a sentence, a comma usually precedes the phrase.

On the other hand, some people say that it is sometimes OK to omit a comma. If possible, I want you to explain using the examples below.

1. Malani watched her little baby, drinking a cup of coffee.

(Someone says that I should put a comma before 'drinking'.

In this sentence, does the meaning become different with or without a comma?)

2. Malani watched a movie drinking a cup of coffee.

Malani paid her electric bill using her credit card.

(Someone says that it doesn't matter whether I put or omit a comma before 'drinking'

and 'using'. Why?)
+0
#1-- The commas are not the problem; it is the placement of the participial vis a vis its referent. In your first sentence:

Mary watched her baby drinking a coke-- the baby is drinking.
Mary watched her baby, drinking a coke-- presumably, Mary is drinking, but the placement of the participial near 'baby' causes it to remain confusing as to who is drinking. This sentence should be recast; it is not good composition: Drinking a coke, Mary watched her baby.

#2 -- Movies do not drink and bills do not use anything, so there is no semantic confusion. No comma, because the participial defines the circumstances.
Comments  
Hi.

Joon2257 wrote these sentences to ask questions in his starting post of this thread:

2. Malani watched a movie drinking a cup of coffee.

Malani paid her electric bill using her credit card.

I don't knwo but I think as to the setence "Melani watched a movie drinking a cup of coffee" without a comma after the word "movie", not placing the comma after the word "movie" seems to imply (not sure, though) that the part "drinking a cup of coffee" is important to the context of the sentence (not sure I wrote correctly to reflect what I wanted say, though).

Having said that, if the part "drinking a cup of coffee" is not essential to the context of the sentence, I feel a comma should be placed. Then, coming up with a text that would make the part "drinking a cup of coffee" not essential seems to be a somewhat difficult part.

How about this? Do you think the comma is correctly placed for no. 1 and correctly not placed for no.2?

1. Melani doesn't do much at home after work. She usually reads her favorite novels after eating dinner. But today was different: she watched a movie, drinking a cup of coffee.

2. Melanie often times is careful not to drink coffee or tea at home because she usually drinks many cups of coffee at work, but today she wasn't her usual self: she watched a movie drinking a cup of coffee.