commas in complex sentences

(17 Posts)
simonettavespucci Mon 06-Jun-16 18:03:27

I need some help please - the more pedantic the better. This is driving me crazy.

Where do you put the comma if you have a subordinate clause directly following a co-ordinating conjunction.

For instance, which of these is correct?

(a) I believe in dragons, and, if I meet one, I'll take a picture.

(b) I believe in dragons, and if I meet one, I'll take a picture.

(c) I believe in dragons, and if I meet one I'll take a picture.

Recommendations for books which might tell me the answer also much appreciated.

redhat Mon 06-Jun-16 18:07:01

I'm rubbish at commas but from DS2's year 4 homework two weeks ago I would guess (a) is correct but that (c) would also be seen because its of people worry about putting in too many comas. B definitely isn't right.

KP86 Mon 06-Jun-16 18:16:36

Actually, I would use two commas: after 'and' and 'one'.

The rule I follow is this - if you take the bit in commas out of the sentence, does it still make sense?

But, I'm not a perfect grammar user!

StVincent Mon 06-Jun-16 18:20:12

I believe in dragons and, if I meet one, I'll take a picture

Would probably do that.

PolterGoose Mon 06-Jun-16 18:25:19

I would probably do:

I believe in dragons. If I meet one I'll take a picture.

simonettavespucci Mon 06-Jun-16 18:28:51

Thank you for answers!

Hmm - that would certainly get rid of the clumsy comma pile up.

But I thought the rule was that if you have two full independent clauses joined by a co-ordinating conjunction (e.g, 'and'), you have to use a comma before the conjunction?

simonettavespucci Mon 06-Jun-16 18:30:52

And I am now wondering about the punctuation in my last sentence. Should there be a comma between 'that' and 'if'?

BoGrainger Mon 06-Jun-16 18:36:34

How about a semi-colon?grin
I believe in dragons; if I meet one I'll take a picture.

ImperialBlether Mon 06-Jun-16 18:40:53

I believe in dragons and, if I meet one, I'll take a picture.

This is correct!

simonettavespucci Mon 06-Jun-16 19:15:28

Fair point Bo and Polter. But, for the sake of the argument, if I want to keep it as one sentence, which is correct?

Imperial, you sound very authoritative, so I am inclined to believe you. But why is that correct? Is there an exception to the rule I stated above?

If we took out the conditional, it would be:

'I believe in dragons, and I want to find one.'

So why does the comma disappear?

redhat Mon 06-Jun-16 19:25:45

isn't because you're introducing a new sub clause by adding the "iif I meet one" ?

I believe in dragons, and I'll take a picture

I believe in dragons, and*, if I meet one,* I'll take a picture.

redhat Mon 06-Jun-16 19:26:10

Hmm, my bold didn't work

simonettavespucci Mon 06-Jun-16 19:32:03

redhat - sorry, I should have phrased that better:

So why does the comma before the 'and' disappear?

You've kept it, which was my first guess for the right answer also - (a) in the OP - but imperial and others are saying it shouldn't be there.

redhat Mon 06-Jun-16 19:58:42

I don't think it does disappear grin

I believe in dragons, and, if I meet one, I'll take a picture.

I'm not great at grammar (at school in the 70s/80s) but the DSs do loads.

KickAssAngel Mon 06-Jun-16 20:04:27

'If I meet one' is the subordinate clause and should therefore have commas around it.

Whether there should be a comma before a conjunction or not is a matter for debate. The more traditional answer is yes, the more modern answer (and traditional in the US) is no.

So you could have: "I believe in dragons, and, if I meet one, I'll take a picture"; or, "I believe in dragons and, if I meet one, I'll take a picture".

OR you could view "If I meet one I'll take a picture" as a sentence by itself and simply join the two sentences with the conjunction "and", with an optional comma after it.

I have seen different answers in different grammar books btw, but one easy reference is Grammar Girl on youtube. She tends to be correct, although American!

simonettavespucci Mon 06-Jun-16 20:42:00

Thanks again for answers, everyone.

Kickass - I think you may have the answer: if a comma before a co-ordinating conjunction is optional, then the problem disappears. But are you sure? I tried googling grammar girl on the subject, and the best I could find was:

"...when you join two things that could be sentences on their own with a word such as “and,” “but,” or “or,” you need a comma before the conjunction:

Squiggly ran to the forest, and Aardvark chased the peeves."

www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/comma-splice

And this - i.e., that you do need the comma - agrees with everything else I've found on the topic (though I've not found anything on the specific construction in the the OP, hence my question).

reddit - Me too, I was at school a while after you, but I only got taught grammar for foreign languages unfortunately.

simonettavespucci Mon 06-Jun-16 20:47:35

Nb For total clarity that should be "if a comma before a co-ordinating conjunction which is joining two independent clauses is optional".

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