The subordinate phrase. - Page 3


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Thread: The subordinate phrase.

  1. #21
    I tend not to do formal writing, so I use commas intuitively. My intuition may not always fit in with rules. Using rules as an optional extra may sound sloppy to some, but a hybrid of rules and intuition seems to work for me. Perhaps that method will bite me on the arse one day.

    Something I have noticed down the years, and I may be way off with this, is that sometimes a comma is needed as follows. Consider the sentence:

    (1) It’s my view that food banks ought not be needed and their existence helps to mask a deeper problem, but I wouldn’t want them abolished, because they can be a lifesaver.

    and


    (2) It’s my view that food banks ought not be needed and their existence helps to mask a deeper problem, but I wouldn’t want them abolished because they can be a lifesaver.

    There is only one comma difference in those sentences (before the because), but they have differing meanings. The way I'm reading them is this: In version (1) the sentence is saying that because foodbanks can be a lifesaver, the writer wouldn't want them abolished.

    However, in version (2) (without comma), the writer is still saying that he wouldn't want foodbanks abolished, but is implying that some might want them abolished due to their lifesaving potential.

    The presence of absence of a comma can sometimes alter the sense of cause and effect too, it seems.

    I don't know if I have that right but that's where I tend to follow intuition. I may overuse commas sometimes because I often insert one where I would naturally pause in speech. Although there are rules, I suspect that there is a degree of choice too.

    I may be way off the mark here.


  2. #22
    Global Moderator Squalid Glass's Avatar
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    Phil, I see your reasoning there. In a lot of instances like this, you’d be running into issues with dangling modifiers, and sometimes commas can help clarify those.

    One of my favorite comma rules I teach to my students is use a comma when needed for clarity, so yes, there is some subjectivity to them.
    "I don't do anything with my life except romanticize and decay with indecision."

    "America I've given you all and now I'm nothing."

  3. #23
    I look at a subordinate clause and a parenthetical phrase as basically the same thing. If it’s parenthetical it’s best to leave it out. But if you really feel that it should be in the sentence use commas instead of parentheses.

  4. #24
    TIM -- I agree, parenthetical inserts should be bounded by commas. I also agree that both subordinate clauses and parenthetical phrases
    provide the same kind of secondary information in a sentence, but subordinate clauses often are the lead-ins to the main idea--they guide, or channel the reader into the main idea in a focused direction. With parenthetical phrases, the main idea is usually already established and the parenthetical insertion functions as an addendum.



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  5. #25
    Good point, Clark, and that's an important difference. But structurally, they are interchangeable, don't you think? It's a good strategy when trying to decide where to put the commas.

  6. #26
    It should be remembered that if the phrase is not significant, so it changes the meaning, the commas may be omitted.

    on the other hand

    It should be remembered that if the phrase is not significant so it changes the meaning the commas may be omitted.

    Seems to carry a different emphasis to the first sentence with commas.

    edit, but looking at the post I realise that 'so' looks a bit out of place in the second one. Which makes me consider

    It should be remembered, that if the phrase is not significant so it changes the meaning, the commas may be omitted.

    And that's different again, is there an AAArgh emoji?
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