Comma Before Now

Do you know this? You have written an essay. Your arguments fit like a pair of tailored pants. You have dissected the old Lessing with razor-sharp precision, determined verse measures, and dared a comparison with Brechtian drama with a clever approach. You expect a standing ovation and a deep bow from your German teacher. And then this. Only a three? Because of too many comma errors? You don’t have to do that! For many students and adults, putting commas in the right place in a sentence is often a matter of luck. But it’s actually not that difficult. To avoid most mistakes, you only need to know 7 comma rules. But first, let’s clarify why we need these sneaky commas in the first place.

Why do I need these commas at all?

Commas divide a sentence into logical parts. When writing, we use commas to structure our thoughts and make them comprehensible to the reader (who doesn’t always have to be the German teacher). When reading, commas help us to establish a connection between sentence parts and words and to understand a statement correctly.

Commas make it easier for us to read and understand a sentence.

Commas are therefore always important when a thought, a sentence needs to be structured and organized in order to understand it. Sometimes a single comma can completely change the meaning of the sentence, as you can see in the following example: Let’s take the sentence “Paul says Emma is stupid.” The comma divides the sentence into two parts, or more precisely, into two main clauses. The comma tells us that Paul thinks Emma is stupid. This changes immediately if we place the commas differently: “Paul, says Emma, is stupid.” This is an insertion, separated from the main clause (“Paul is stupid.”) by two commas. Through the insertion, we know that Emma thinks Paul is goofy. The commas alone have completely changed the statement. As we have seen, it is very important to put commas in the right place. To make it easier for you in the future, here are the 7 most important comma rules:

1. strike the comma rules: Enumerations

If things, persons, characteristics or activities are enumerated in a sentence, the individual elements of the enumeration are separated by a comma. Have you noticed the enumeration? That’s right: “Things, persons, qualities or activities”. And since you’re smart, you’ve probably noticed the exception to the rule, right? Correct: If there is an “and” or “or” between the enumerated elements, you must not use a comma. Comma rules, the first: Commas stand between the elements of the enumeration.

2nd stroke of the comma rules: Main clauses

Main clauses are nice. Main sentences are simple. Main clauses are usually short. But you can also combine them, i.e. write a sentence like this from several main sentences: “Main clauses are nice, they are simple, and they are usually short.” In this case, the individual main clauses are separated from each other with commas. You can even put a comma before “and” or “or”. But you don’t have to and I recommend you to do without it. Comma rules, the second: Commas separate main clauses

3rd strike of the comma rules: Subordinate clauses

Main clauses can be completed by a subordinate clause. In the subordinate clause, a fact of the main clause is explained in more detail. Main and subordinate clauses must be separated by a comma. If you are wondering how to tell what is a main clause and what is a subordinate clause, let us explain it to you, because it is very simple: You can recognize a main clause by the fact that the verb is in the second position. In a subordinate clause, the verb is at the end. An example? Here you go: main clause: “Paul is watching a movie.” (the verb “sees” is in the second position) Supplemented by the subordinate clause: “A movie, that he has already seen.” (the verb “has seen” is at the end). Comma rules, the third: commas separate main clause and subordinate clause

4th deletion of the comma rules: Insertions

One of the comma rules that is particularly easy to remember deals with sentence interpolations. If I insert a more detailed explanation of a term, a person, an action into the sentence, then I must separate this insertion with commas. The easiest way to recognize an insertion is that the rest of the sentence is complete and makes sense without the insertion. The first sentence of this section would work without the insertion as follows: “One of the comma rules deals with sentence insertions.” Comma rules, the Fourth: Commas frame an insertion.

5th stroke of the comma rules: Emphasized parts of sentences

DarnHow difficult are these comma rules! Read the sentence aloud. Do you notice how you emphasize the “darn”? If this is the case, you must put a comma. Also after stressed forms of address (Mr. Teacherdo we really have to know all the rules about commas?) and expressions of emotion (Ouch, that hurts.”), please always use a comma. Comma rules, the fifth: Commas are placed after a stressed beginning of a sentence.

6th deletion of the comma rules: Infinitives with to

If an extended infinitive with to infinitive with to occurs in a sentence, a comma must be placed as a rule. The infinitive means an uninflected verb, i.e. one that is not preceded by a personal pronoun and cannot be preceded by a personal pronoun – but by the little word “zu”. Example: “It’s a brilliant feeling to fly.” Here, you can’t put a comma before the infinitive with to. A second example: “It is a brilliant feeling to be able to give yourself this flight.” This is the so-called extended infinitive with to. The comma makes sense here in any case. According to the new German spelling, however, you no longer have to use it. Comma rules, the sixth: Commas stand before the (extended) infinitive with to

7th deletion of the comma rules: Conjunctions

Conjunctions (linking words) have probably driven many a poor student out of his mind. For one thing, there are a lot of them. You can find a list of common conjunctions in Wikipedia. But be careful: not all of them require a comma. As a rule of thumb you can remember the following: You must put a comma before all conjunctions that introduce a contradiction. These include “but”, “however”, “so much the more”, “on the other hand”, etc. You must also put a comma before words that introduce a trailing explanation. This includes “for example,” “if,” or “and indeed.” Comma rules, the seventh: Commas are often placed before conjunctions.

The 7 most important comma rules as a fact sheet to download

To help you remember the 7 most important comma rules, we have put together an overview for you to download. If you know these 7 comma rules, you will surely impress your German teacher with your next essay. Do you have any questions about the comma rules? Or do you still not understand something else from school? Then just write a comment. We are looking forward to your questions, suggestions and ideas. And if you don’t want to miss a post? Then follow us on Google+, Facebook or subscribe to our RSS feed. Comma Before Now.

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