Punctuation : Comma

The Comma ( , ) is meant to add detail to the structure of sentences and to make their meaning clear by indicating words that either do or do not belong together. The Comma usually represents the natural break and pauses that a person makes while speaking and it operates at phrase level and word level.

Phrase level:

A Comma should be used to make off parts of a sentence that are separated by conjunctions (and, but, yet, etc.). The use of a Comma is particularly important when there is a change in or a repetition of the subject.


• He was a habitual liar, which is why people never believed what he said.

Word level:

A Comma is almost always used to separate adjectives having the same range of reference coming before a noun.


• It was dark, cold, moonless night.

• Adolph Hitler was a ruthless, power-hungry, maniacal person.

Between a pair of adjectives, the comma can be replaced by and to impart a stronger effect.


• Adolph Hitler was a ruthless and power-hungry, maniacal person.

When the adjectives have a different range of reference (e.g., size and color) or when the last adjective has a closer relation to the noun, the comma is omitted.


• He wore a loose khaki uniform.

• He was a crazy old man.

Commas are used to separate items in a list or sequence.


• The guests were served biscuits, pastries, pea-nuts, and tea.

In the above example, a comma has been used before the word and, which few authorities believe is unnecessary and should therefore be avoided. In many cases, however, a comma before the word and helps ensure clarity. Whether to use a comma before the word and or not would therefore depend upon the structure of the sentence.

However, the comma must be left out between nouns that occur together in the same grammatical role in a sentence (termed apposition).


• His son Ajay went on to become a pilot.

But a comma needs to be used when the noun is an additional piece of information that could be deleted from a sentence without affecting the meaning.


• His son, Ajay, went on to become a pilot.

• His son went on to become a pilot.


The Comma is used

To separate the series of words in the same construction:


• England, Italy, Germany and Spain formed an alliance.

• He lost lands, money, reputation and friends.

To separate each pair of words connected by and:


• We should be devout and humble, cheerful and serene.

• High and low, rich and poor, wise and fool, must all die.


A Comma is generally not used before the word preceded by and.

To mark off a noun or phrase in Apposition:


• Paul, the apostle, was beheaded in the reign of Nero.

• Milton, the great English, poet was blind.

• Pandit Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, died in 1964.

To mark off words used in addressing people:


• Come into the garden, Maud.

• How are you Mohan?

• Lord of this universe, shield us and guide us.


But when the words are emphatic, we ought to use the Note of Exclamation.


• Monster! By thee my child is devoured.

To mark of two or more adjectives or adverbs coming together:


• The girl, beautiful and intelligent, did not turn up for the examinations.

• Then, at length, tardy justice was done to the memory of Oliver.

To mark of the direct quotation from the rest of the sentence:


• ‘Exactly so’, said Alice.

• He said to his disciples, “Watch and pray".

• “Go then", said the Minister.

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