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How To Use Commas - English Writing Lesson

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Learn how to use commas correctly in this English lesson. You can see the full lesson (which includes the text and a quiz) here: https://www.oxfordonlineenglish.com/video-lesson-how-to-use-commas Commas are difficult to use correctly in English - why is this? It's because commas do different jobs in the sentence. These different types of comma follow different rules. So, to use commas correctly in English, you need to understand the different types of comma and what they do. 1. The listing comma The listing comma is used to separate items on a list. For example: - "We need two cucumbers, four tomatoes, some onions and a lettuce." - "We spent our time relaxing on the beach, swimming in the sea and drinking coffee in the seaside cafés." You can see that we use a comma between every item on the list, except for the last two; there isn't a comma before 'and'. In American English, there could also be a comma before 'and'. 2. The joining comma The joining comma is used to link two complete sentences, together with a linking word. For example: - "We were tired, and we really didn't feel like going anywhere." - "He seemed nice, but he just wasn't my type." We often use the joining comma with linking words such as 'but', 'and', 'or', 'although' and others. You can't use a joining comma with all linking words. For example, 'however' cannot be used with a comma. 3. The bracketing comma The bracketing comma is used to add extra information to a sentence. For example: - "This book, first published in 1956, is still useful for students today." — We add the extra phrase 'first published in 1956' between a pair of commas. - "One of my colleagues, who used to be a semi-professional footballer, invited me to play in their 5-a-side team this weekend." — We add the extra information 'who used to be a semi-professional footballer' in between a pair of commas. You'll learn more about how to use these different types of comma in the video lesson. You can also learn about common mistakes which English learners make with commas, so that you can avoid them. A big thank you to the Alphabet translation team from Syria for the Arabic captions!
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Text Comments (91)
Ginger Cat (10 hours ago)
Great channel
NA 19 (2 days ago)
Hey, please answer this one: in 11:16, can I use semicolons instead of full stop? since they are two independent clauses that related to the same subject? If not please clarify why not. Thank you.
Oxford Online English (2 days ago)
Hi there, thanks for sharing your comment. Our certified English teachers can help you with online classes. You can book a trial lesson here: https://www.oxfordonlineenglish.com/book-first-class.
Elvst (9 days ago)
hi, i have seen in books which have this and, used. Does the and, used the correct use of comma.
Oxford Online English (8 days ago)
I'm not sure I understand your question; could you give me an example?
Rakesh Kumar (25 days ago)
what is rule of comma for which.. if which is used as joining word.
Tharindu Perera (1 month ago)
Thank you.
stanislav dimitrov (3 months ago)
Hello, nice explanation. Obviously, it is quite complicated:)
GirlwithFlowers (4 months ago)
Why did you use a full stop and not a semicolon at 5:22? I don't understand. If the two sentences are related, aren't we suppose to use the semicolon?
GirlwithFlowers (4 months ago)
I only ask because I used a full stop before "moreover" and my teacher said you need to use a semicolon. Thank you.
Oxford Online English (4 months ago)
Hi there, when we use phrases like 'however', 'therefore', etc. you want to use a full stop or two commas to show the required full pause.
Jessie Lee (4 months ago)
1: Listing comma( separate items in a list including words, phrases and full sentences) to replace 'and' / 'or' 2: Joining comma( join two complete sentences with a linking word) 1⃣️linking words: but, or, although, also etc. 2⃣️We can't use a joining comma with some linking words( however, ) 3: Bracketing comma( add extra information to a sentence, more often used in appositives) ⚠️Using bracketing comma the sentence must be complete and make sense without that extra information. 🚫Don't put a comma between a subject and its verb 🚫Don't use a comma before that 🚫Don't use a comma to join two sentences if without linking words
Tomas Amaya 78 (4 months ago)
Thanks for uploading this video. Its was very informative.
Paul Skertich (5 months ago)
Quick question, my friend. It's been bugging for me for a couple of days. I read a sentence from this book: "I saw her in the pouring down rain, outside standing underneath a store's awning." The comma between rain and outside is bugging me. Why is there a comma there? Is it a independent clause, dependent clause scenario?
Oxford Online English (4 months ago)
Exactly, Paul! The second clause is dependent on the first.
KHADKA SAGAR (5 months ago)
what if i put the comma like the people, we met on holiday, were very nice.
Oxford Online English (5 months ago)
Hi Khadka, this is a full idea, so you don't need a comma. "The people we met on holiday were very nice".
Paul Skertich (5 months ago)
"I loathe commas, so dearly --- they drive me insane , so much they make me scream!" I sigh heavily. While I shook my head, and stared blankly at the concrete slab. Is there anything wrong with my usage of commas? Is there anything I would need to improve on? I subscribed to your awesome channel and clicked on the bell icon. Why do I feel at times there should be a comma after the word 'channel'?
Paul Skertich (5 months ago)
I gotchya now! While I read my sentence back in my mind, I could see it clearly. You're absolutely correct! I would had used a comma before the conjunction if introducing another subject. However, I should had placed a comma inside the While transitional phase, but I could be wrong. e.g. 'While I shook my head and stared blankly at the concrete slab, I sensed the frustration boiling through my veins.' Although, I understand this video is more about using commas than using transitional phases. :) Your videos, however, have accelerated my learning curve, and I thank you for that!
Oxford Online English (5 months ago)
Nice job, Paul! You don't need a comma between, 'shook my head and stared blankly at the...'. Only if it's a list of more than two items, 'I shook my head, looked down, and stared blankly...'.
F J (6 months ago)
One of the best channels on YouTube.
Hương Sở (9 months ago)
Don't put a comma between a subject and a main verb: 6:15 => This book, first published in 1956, is....
Hương Sở (7 months ago)
Thank
Andreas Jacobsen (7 months ago)
Well there's is no problem here, because the main sentence is "This book is". The additional information (first published in 1956) has been isolated by commas. :)
Extreme Gaming (9 months ago)
Helped me learn for my test
Mila Thomas (11 months ago)
I appreciate your presentation. However, it would be more effective if you stress and show the correct sentence as opposed to the incorrect.
Matthew Rowe (1 year ago)
My life is now complete with this useful tutorial on my personal favourite punctuation known as commas
Oxford Online English (1 year ago)
Glad it was useful for you, Matthew!
Sid dabral (1 year ago)
Wow Thnkuu So Much Sir
BS Vijay Anand (1 year ago)
Does this video includes when to use comma before words like - which, such as, including, and includes? Can anyone shed light on these things theoretically over here by replying to me please! As much accurately as possible!
Oxford Online English (1 year ago)
Thanks for watching. This lesson might be useful for you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNKBut921qM&list=PLD6t6ckHsrubRV7Wb42ggOhVNrBRAte13&index=2
shahana saleem (1 year ago)
can i add a comma after 'that'
Oxford Online English (1 year ago)
If it's used as a subject, you can Shahana. For example, 'I know that, which is why I didn't go'.
Aiden's Games (1 year ago)
So you use commas before the subordinate clause in a complex sentence ?
Aiden's Games (1 year ago)
Oxford Online English Thank you very much!
Oxford Online English (1 year ago)
Hi Atlanta. Yes, when we are linking the clauses by commas rather than conjunctions or relative pronouns, you would put the comma after the independent clause.
d o n d o m (1 year ago)
thanks
Simon lu (1 year ago)
It is very useful.
حسام حبيب (1 year ago)
i love u so much
SlimeOmlime (1 year ago)
In the sentence "You'll either have to start again, or find someone to help you" you said it is wrong because the second part is not a full sentence. I actually thought it was wrong because the first sentence is not a complete sentence. I find it difficult to believe that "You'll either have to start again" can stand on its own as a sentence while the second part "Find someone to help you",which could be used like a command, seems just fine as a sentence to me.
Oxford Online English (1 year ago)
Yes, that's a more accurate way of thinking about it. I didn't want to get into different clause types, so I used the term 'full sentence' a little loosely in the video, meaning 'either a full sentence or a clause which could potentially be a full sentence.'
SlimeOmlime (1 year ago)
That was what I thought. So in that case does that mean that we can use the joining comma with a linking word to combine 2 complete sentences OR 2 clauses? I ask this because in the sentence we are discussing you explained it under the "joining comma" section of the video, where you said that it is used to join two complete sentences while in this case the first part (beginning with "You'll either") as you have just told me is not a complete sentence.
Oxford Online English (1 year ago)
It's not a complete sentence, because using 'either' makes it a dependent clause, i.e. it needs the second clause (with 'or') to complete the idea and the sentence. Without 'either' it would be a full sentence.
SlimeOmlime (1 year ago)
Woops, my mistake. I meant to say that I felt the sentence was wrong because I thought the first part "You'll either have to start again" could not stand on it's own as a sentence. Could you explain how the first part is a complete sentence?
Oxford Online English (1 year ago)
I didn't say it's wrong; I said it's correct! "Find someone to help you" looks like it isn't a full sentence, but it's actually a full sentence with some words omitted to avoid repetition. The full form would be "You'll either have to start again, or you'll have to find someone to help you." Leaving out the words 'you'll have to' doesn't change the fact that it's a full sentence.
Life Learn Healthy (1 year ago)
thanks
Ahmed Bassam (1 year ago)
Thanks lad! That was really helpful.
Fla1891020 (1 year ago)
Hi, I have seen some cases in which the comma before AND, BUT, or SO preceding sentences is not used. For example: They went to the store and they bought some food. Would you please tell me if there are any exceptions to that rule?
Fla1891020 (1 year ago)
thank you very much!!
Oxford Online English (1 year ago)
It's a good question. Comma usage in English isn't 100% fixed, and different people don't use commas consistently. Because so many people use commas in different ways, it's impossible to say what's right/wrong in some cases. In your example, you don't need a comma. I think it depends on length. The two clauses are quite short, so you can often omit the comma even though the rules say you need one. Basic rule: use punctuation to help your reader. If punctuation makes your writing clearer for your reader, use it. If it doesn't, don't!
Alexandra Soares (1 year ago)
Hi! Maybe you could help me with this doubt. I'm a teacher and some time ago I got into an "argument" with a fellow teacher because of a sentence that a student wrote, which wasn't the sentence we were hoping for (this was a grammar exercise in a test). So, the student wrote this: "Some health complaints like allergies and asthma, caused by pollution and germs, affect thousands of people around the world." Is this a correct sentence? Does it make sense? Thank you!
Alexandra Soares (1 year ago)
+Oxford Online English Thank you so much! Yes, it does help a lot (because I argued that the sentence was indeed correct). My colleague argued that the relative couldn't be reduced in English (which we do all the time in our language, Portuguese), and so there shouldn't be any commas. Thank you again!
Oxford Online English (1 year ago)
Good question! Yes, the sentence is grammatically correct. It's a reduced relative clause; it could also be written as, "...which are caused by pollution and germs, ..." The clause between commas contains extra information which could be removed without making the whole sentence meaningless, so it does need to go between commas. Hope this helps!
Ting Huang (2 years ago)
00 . ..
RsBerzerkaVG (2 years ago)
Anyone ever been threatened at gunpoint to use commas in your sentences? Me neither. x)
RsBerzerkaVG (2 years ago)
+Oxford Online English Thanks :)
Oxford Online English (2 years ago)
Sure, it's not life and death. But try reading something that's badly-written--it can be very slow and frustrating. Using commas and other punctuation well can just make your reader's life a little bit easier.
RsBerzerkaVG (2 years ago)
L00k a8 m3 ! I'm now learning engish :D
Llewellyn von Hellen (2 years ago)
It's odd how the Oxford comma is not used in the UK, _where Oxford is located_, but it is used in the US.
Llewellyn von Hellen (2 years ago)
I don't know who named it and where, but the Victorian _Herbert Spencer (1820-1903)_ is thought to have "invented" it.
Oxford Online English (2 years ago)
Maybe it's named after Oxford, Mississippi... :)
Me Me (2 years ago)
What has happened to the punctuation at the end of sentences?
Oxford Online English (2 years ago)
+Me Me In a list with bullet points, you don't have to use full stops at the end of sentences. I'm a little inconsistent with it. The problem is that I also write for other people/companies, and they all have different style requirements. As a result, I mix up different styles sometimes. So, it is correct, but I should be more consistent, too!
Freebies In The Mail (2 years ago)
This is the best explanation using commas. Great information.
Sarah Altamimy (2 years ago)
Why that we don't commas with however??
Oxford Online English (2 years ago)
+Sarah Altamimy Do you mean before or after 'however'? We often use a comma after 'however', but if you want to join two sentences using 'however', a semicolon is needed. There's no particular reason or logic; it's just the way it is!
TheKiwiColonel (2 years ago)
at 1:54 I believe that after the "swimming in the sea" you're meant to have a comma? "relaxing on the beach, swimming in the sea, and drinking coffee in the seaside cafés." Correct?
TheKiwiColonel (2 years ago)
+Oxford Online English alright, thanks :)
Oxford Online English (2 years ago)
+KiwiGaming Good question! The comma there is optional. American English tends to use a comma in lists before 'and', while British English tends not to. Either way is correct.
dappadandy (2 years ago)
This helped me a lot. Thank you. Lastly, one final thing. You say "He told me that he wanted to quit and become a painter, which surprised me".That answer needs a comma Yet when i did the quiz I answered incorrectly on "He was very calm when he heard, which I found surprising." Why is that not correct? Is that not extra information? Thanks again.
Oxford Online English (2 years ago)
+dappadandy Thanks for the comment! Not sure I understand your question. I checked the quiz, and the sentence "He was very calm when he heard, which I found surprising," is marked as correct. As you say, it is extra information, so the comma is necessary. If I've missed something please do let me know.
adina r. thomas (2 years ago)
I DO SECOND ALL THE GOOD COMMENTS BELOW, RIGHT NOW I AM VERY BUSY WILL GET BACK TO SHARE ETC tHANK YOU SO SO SO SO MUCH VENEZUELA
Ako R (2 years ago)
5:58 "However",in this case, is NOT a linking word. It's a CONJUNCTIVE ADVERB, and you can never continue after HOWEVER without a comma. The correct answer is: She didn't get the grades she needed; However, she got into the university in any case. We have got two independent clauses and a conjunctive adverb, So its a comma splice. "You cannot link two independent clauses with just a comma"
Oxford Online English (2 years ago)
+Ako R Not sure I understand. When I say 'linking word', I really mean conjunctions, which includes conjunctive adverbs. In the sentence "She didn't get the grades she needed. However, she got into the university in any case," there's no way to use a comma before 'however,' between the two clauses, as I say in the video. So I'm not sure I understand your point! Please do get back to me if I've missed something.
Ako R (2 years ago)
3:44 "Although" is a subordinator, and when it comes with a dependent clause after the independent clause comes first, you don't need to put a comma before it. Please correct me if i'm wrong.
Oxford Online English (2 years ago)
+Ako R Comma usage isn't very rule-bound, which is one of the difficulties. Can you give me some examples of sentences you aren't sure about?
tgchan (2 years ago)
Thank you~!
Pál Sipos (2 years ago)
it is quite clear that this video is about the correct usage of commas, but even that can not explain why the sentence closing full stops are missing at the end of quite a few examples. :)
Oxford Online English (2 years ago)
+Pál Sipos Haha! Good spot. Actually, when you have a bullet point, you don't have to use a full stop. However, I should be consistent with it. Thanks for pointing it out.
such a/an? wonderful and useful lesson, thanks a lot.
Oxford Online English (2 years ago)
+KowshiK Tikadar Suv Sufi Thanks! (The correct answer is 'such a...')
CHANNYTUBE (2 years ago)
Very useful and clear thank you
renata jakielaszek (2 years ago)
Thank you
Ruy Graça (2 years ago)
My first language uses more commas.
Solomon Razvan (6 months ago)
My first language is Romanian but ,surprisingly, even though the grammar is very,very hard, we,romanians, don't have problems regarding commas.
Oxford Online English (2 years ago)
+Ruy Graça Most languages (that I've seen) do. So, if in doubt, leave it out! Doesn't work every time, but it's a useful guideline.
suresh singh (3 years ago)
thanks i like your lessons
Luckybawdy (3 years ago)
OMG THANKS <3
Svtuition (3 years ago)
simple. Thanks
Yogita Gaur (3 years ago)
From where i cn get all the classes videos
Yogita Gaur (3 years ago)
Ok thanks
Yogita Gaur (3 years ago)
Ol thanks
Oxford Online English (3 years ago)
+Yogita Gaur YouTube doesn't allow downloads, but you can watch them all on YouTube or on our website (www.oxfordonlineenglish.com) at any time.
Amr Halabi (3 years ago)
Thanks I like your lessons and I like your way, go ahead
Pristiana Firdaus (3 years ago)
Very useful. Thank you so much. More lessons please..

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