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I have trouble deciding when to put a comma before so. The following are two examples about so. But one with a comma while the other not. Please explain when we should put a comma and when we should not.
She asked me to go, so I went.
The shops were closed so I couldn't buy anything.
Thanks very much.
Approved answer (verified by Mister Micawber)
I would use a comma in both of your examples. Why? Well, without a comma in the second sentence, it doesn't literally say what the author intended it to. It's really saying that the shops were closed because you couldn't buy anything rather than what it wants to say: Because the shops were closed, I couldn't buy anything.
My other reason for putting a comma in both: both of the sentences are compound sentences. As a rule, all compound sentences must be separated with a comma and a conjunction. In this case, "so" is the conjunction. There is a growing trend to remove the comma before the and in such cases, but I disagree with it, and I will fight to the death to keep it there. People who take it out are just lazy writers, plain and simple. (Of course, there is a push from certain media outlets and publishers to remove commas to save ink and space...but that is really only degrading the English language and the way things should be.)
Others would disagree with me, simply because they hate commas. I tend to use commas more than anyone I know, but I always have a reason for putting a comma, whereas many people can't tell why they would remove it. Usually I'm told: well, I didn't like the comma there.
<stands on soapbox>The only thing worse than a "lazy writer" is a lazy pedant. And that is exactly what I am calling you out as. To say that the omission of a well-placed comma is "degrading [to] the English language and the way things should be." (emphasis added) is to give no reasoning at all. Who appointed you All-Knowing Prescriptivist anyways?</stands on soapbox>
It rained, so we could not play baseball.
...we could not play baseball is an independent clause; that is, it can stand alone as a complete sentence; therefore, a comma should precede so. Some writers may omit the comma, however, given such as short sentence, but for lengthier ones, a comma is a must.
DO NOT place a comma before so (or any other of the seven coordinating conjuctions) if the following clause is dependent (essential):
He disguised his voice cleverly so that we couldn't identify him as the caller.
...that we couldn't identify him as the caller is a dependent clause; that is, it cannot stand alone as a complete sentence; therefore, a comma must not precede so.
=> The shops were closed to prevent me from buying anything.
(Clarifying example: The car stopped so (that) I could cross the street.)
"The shops were closed, so I couldn't buy anything."
=> I couldn't buy anything because the shops were closed.
How about this as a reason to put a comma before a sentence like the one I tried point out above?
If one has to pause after a long part of the sentence before the word "so," will it be a good enough reason to put a comma eventhough what comes after "so" is essential? I hope what I wrote reflects what I wanted to say - not sure though.
Also, I am sorry I can't give an example sentence. Any help will be appreciated.
TV" or modifies a modifier, for example "It was so heavy I couldn't lift the rock" it does not take a comma. Use the comma to separate independent clauses, for example "I was home, so I watched in on TV" and "The rock was big, so I couldn't lift it."
Read more: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Do_you_always_need_to_put_a_comma_before_the_word_so#ixzz1W4wm77ve
"The shops were closed so I couldn't buy anything." That wouldn't mean, "The shops were closed because I couldn't buy anything." It would mean, "I couldn't buy anything because the shops were closed."
Your challenge stands. A little odd, but it stands nonetheless.
People are waiting to help.
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