What is a comma? What is (,) called? Learn useful comma rules and how to use commas in English with example sentences and ESL worksheet.
A comma (,) is a punctuation mark used to denote a pause in the sentence (shorter than a colon or a semicolon). A comma is used to show the difference between two separate ideas or elements within a sentence. Commas have other users as well, as they can be used to separate numbers, and write dates.
When to Use a Comma
- We use commas to separate a series of words
- To separate a series of phrases
- To connect two independent clauses
- To set off introductory phrases or clauses
- Used after certain words that introduce a sentence
- To separate the parenthetical elements
- To separate coordinate adjectives
- To separate the quoted parts
- To set off phrases to express contrast
- To avoid confusion
- To set off expressions that interrupt the sentence flow
- To separate dates, years, addresses…
- To separate a statement from a tag question
When to Use Commas with Example Sentences
Separate a Series of Words
We use commas between words in a series. Notice that a comma does not follow the last word in the series.
- See, listen, and be silent, and you will live in peace.
- He was tall, dark, and handsome.
- Do you want some cakes, candies or ice cream?
Separate a Series of Phrases
- I like reading books, listening to music, watching TV, and studying English.
Connect Two Independent Clauses
We use commas to separate two complete statements.
- It’s an old car, but it’s very reliable.
- I was feeling hungry, so I made myself a sandwich.
- Although she is very poor, she has not lost her dignity.
- He walked all the way home, and he shut the door.
Set off Introductory Phrases or Clauses
We use a comma to separate an introductory element from the rest of the sentence.
- Having finally arrived in town, we went shopping.
- As the day came to an end, the fire fighters put out the last spark.
- Talking with her, you’d try to head off your happy marriage.
After Certain Words that Introduce a Sentence
- Well, I’m not going home on foot, at any rate.
- Hey, don’t tell me what to do.
- Yes, I’ll be there. Thanks for reminding me.
Separate the Parenthetical Elements
A parenthetical element adds extra information and can be removed from the sentence without changing the meaning of the sentence.
- Football, which is a popular sport, is very good for health.
- My grandmother, old and sick, never goes out of the house.
- We visited Sydney Opera House, Australia, last week.
Separate Coordinate Adjectives
We place commas between adjectives, if two ore more adjectives modify a noun in the same way. These are called coordinate adjectives which can be identified by the fact that the word and can be inserted between them and their order can be reversed.
- Followers feel energetic, confident and happy.
- He is a competent, efficient worker.
Separate the Quoted Parts
- He asked,”Do you want to go with me?”
- The teacher asked, “Do you love English?”
- “I don’t think you should do that,” he said.
Set off Phrases to Express Contrast
We also use commas to set off contrasting expressions beginning with not, but…
- Money is a good servant, but a bad master.
- The golden age is before us, not behind us.
- Adversity makes a man wise, not rich.
We also add a comma in some cases to make a sentence clear.
- For most, the year is already finished.
- I saw that she was busy, and prepared to leave.
Set off Expressions that Interrupt the Sentence Flow
- This, after all, is a company which is awash with cash.
- On the other hand, many women choose to go out to work.
- We all tried our best. However, we lost the game.
Separate Dates, Years, Addresses…
- We will meet Friday, July 15.
- I was born in August 26, 2001.
- The White House is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20500.
Separate a Statement from a Tag Question
We use this punctuation mark to set off a tag question which is used at the end of the statement to ask for confirmation.
- There weren’t any problems when you talked to Jack, were there?
- Let’s take the next bus, shall we?
- We have never seen that, have we?
- You’re moving to London, are you?
- This will work, won’t it?
- There‘s nothing wrong, is there?
Comma Rules Chart