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The summary of Lesson 3 of the Comma Sense Course


"I have spent most of the day putting in a comma and the rest of the day taking it out."

Oscar Wilde

In this Lesson, we will study Adverbial Clauses at the END of a sentence, Adverbial Words, and Absolute Phrases. Some of these elements you will recognize from Lesson #1 and Lesson #2, but here they will be awarded their own specific rule number.

I trust, by now, you are feeling more comfortable about commas and their usage. As you can see from the previous lessons, commas are not just used when a writer has an overpowering urge to stick one in his or her sentence. There are actually RULES *Shock* controlling the grammatical structure and pace of the sentence using commas. With practice, these rules will be part of your everyday writing, and you will feel as natural about them as starting a sentence with a capital letter. Let's go on to the next four rules.


[Scroll down to bottom of this page for list of rules and exceptions.]

Rule #13: Ending Adverbial Clauses
*Checkb* Do NOT use a comma with Ending Adverbial Clauses-usually.

In Lesson #1 we studied Rule #2, Introductory Adverbial Clauses. Remember?? *Confused* An Introductory Adverbial Clause is a dependent clause set at the beginning of a sentence and begins with Subordinating Conjunctions such as: after, although, as, as soon as, because, before, by the time, every time, if, since, the first (second-third-last) time, though, until, when, whenever, wherever, while, and so on. (Yes, there are many more.*Rolleyes*) A comma is used after the Introductory Adverbial Clause.

The Adverbial Clause we are studying in this lesson is at the END of the sentence. Just like an Introductory Adverbial Clause, it begins with a Subordinating Conjunction, and it is a clause which is dependent on the Subordinate Conjunction that starts it, but without the beginning word (the Subordinating Conjunction), it can stand alone as an independent clause, a separate and complete sentence on its own.
The Ending Adverbial Clause is set at the END of the sentence, and NO COMMA is usedusually.
Just like with Exception #1xb, there are exceptions. For example, "as if" and "as though" and "even though" and "although" and "whereas" are subordinating conjunctions of comparison and contrast. These particular subordinating conjunctions will call for a comma before them.
Here is that link again from Lesson #1, Exception #1xb, explaining these exceptions:

This is exactly like Exception #1xb from Lesson #1 in which we learned that no comma is used, usually, when a Subordinating Conjunction joins Independent Clauses. It now has its own Rule Number. Instead of Exception #1xb, it will now be known, forevermore, as an Ending Adverbial Clause [Rule #13]. Isn't that neat? *Bigsmile*

Examples of Ending Adverbial Clauses:

*Noteb* Marcia gave me a call when she arrived in town.

*Noteb* Buster gobbles up his dog food, as if he hadn't eaten in days.
Here, we have one of those exceptional subordinating conjunctions which calls for a comma.

*Noteb* I saw Linda the last time I went to Missouri.

*Noteb** Chip cries in frustration every time his cable goes out.

*Noteb* The Comma Sense students completed their exercise before they understood all the rules.

*Noteb* The students ran and hid from Ms. Winnie as soon as she reached for her dreaded Ruler.

I find it fascinating that you can switch adverbial clauses from Introductory to Ending, and the sentence still makes sense. Doesn't this information just blow you away? *Yawn* Hello! Did I just lose everybody? Just remember, if you switch the position of the Clause, you must add or evict the comma accordingly.

Don't confuse an Ending Adverbial Clause with an Ending Participial Phrase [Rule #10]. They are not the same!! Remember, an Ending Participial Phrase begins with a participle (a word ending in ing or ed) and it is a PHRASE, not a CLAUSE. It can't stand alone as a separate sentence.

Exception #13x: Ending Conjunctive Adverbial Then Phrases
*Exclaim**Exclaim* Be careful with the Conjunctive Adverb then. A phrase or clause beginning with the Conjunctive Adverb then at the end of a sentence follows its own special rules. Some make the mistake in thinking that then is a Subordinating Conjunction. It is not.
*Bulletg* Never use a comma after then.
*Bulletg* Always use a comma before then when it introduces a phrase.
*Bulletg* Use a semicolon, start a new sentence, or use a comma and a Coordinating Conjunction when then introduces a clause. No comma is necessary after then when it starts a new sentence, even though it acts as an Introductory Transitional Word.
*Bulletg* Do not use a comma when a Coordinating Conjunction precedes then and introduces a phrase.

Here is an excellent link explaining comma usage with the conjunctive adverb then:

Examples of Ending Conjunctive Adverbial Then Phrases:

*Noteb* He bought some jelly beans, then went home.
Always use a comma before then when it introduces a phrase.

*Noteb* He bought some jelly beans; then he went home.
*Noteb* He bought some jelly beans. Then he went home.
*Noteb* He bought some jelly beans, [1] and then he went home.
Use a semicolon, start a new sentence, or use a comma and a Coordinating Conjunction when then introduces a clause. In the later example, Rule #1 applies.

*Noteb* He bought some jelly beans [1xd] and then went home.

Do not use a comma when a Coordinating Conjunction precedes then and introduces a phrase. In this case, Exception #1xd applies.

*Noteb* Mix the dry ingredients together, then add the milk slowly.
*Noteb* Take a left at Hawthorne, then drive three miles until you get to the stadium.

Use a comma when then is a chronological conjunction which directs the understood subject you to the next step of action to be taken.

Rule #14: Disjunctive Adverbial Words
*Checkb* Use a comma to set off Disjunctive Adverbial Words that modify the entire sentence or clause.

In Lesson #1, we studied Non-Essential Elements [Rule #5]. Sometimes, that Non-Essential Element was a single word, an adverb. Though not essential to the meaning of the sentence, it modifies the entire sentence and adds imagery and flavor, but these adverbs do not fit the flow of the sentence. They kind of interrupt the pace. This particular Non-Essential Element now has its own Rule Number. These adverbs are called Disjunctive Adverbs, and they usually end in ly, but not always. They are usually found at the beginning of the sentence. They are always separated by a comma. A disjunct frequently acts as a kind of evaluation of the rest of the sentence.
Here's a great link listing the most commonly used adverbs:

Examples of Disjunctive Adverbial Words:

*Noteb* Fortunately, no one was hit by flying jelly beans.
The adverb fortunately is non-essential. It does not fit into the flow of the sentence. It is Disjunctive and requires a comma after it.

*Noteb* The average world temperature, surprisingly, has continued to rise.
Remember this example of a Non-Essential Element [Rule #5] from Lesson #1? Well, this particular Non-Essential Element now has its own rule. It is a Disjunctive Adverb [Rule #14].

*Noteb* Quickly, Pat ran away from the killer commas.
The adverb quickly adds to the imagery of this sentence, but it is not essential. It is Disjunctive.

*Noteb* The fires were brought under control, ironically, just two days before the heavy rains started.
The adverb ironically interrupts the flow of the sentence. It is Disjunctive and needs commas around it.

*Noteb** Remarkably, he never understood why all his friends had turned against him.

Rule #15: Adjunctive Adverbial Words
*Checkb* Do NOT use a comma to set off an Adjunctive Adverbial Word that simply modifies the verb and easily flows within the sentence.

Regardless of its position, an adverb is often neatly integrated into the flow of a sentence. When this is true, as it almost always is, the adverb is called an adjunct, and NO COMMAS are used to set it off as in the underlined adjunctive adverb, neatly, in the sentence above.
Here's a great link listing the most commonly used adverbs:

Examples of Adjunctive Adverbial Words:

*Noteb** He never understood why all his friends had viciously turned against him.
The adverb viciously doesn't modify the entire sentence. It only modifies the verb, and NO COMMAS should surround it. The adverb easily flows within the sentence.

*Noteb* Why do I constantly need to check my commas?

*Noteb* Blindly throwing commas into a sentence is unforgivable.

*Noteb* Missy cheerfully agrees that it's time to take a break.

Check out this link for more information on adjunctive and disjunctive adverbs:

Rule #16: Absolute Phrases
*Checkb* Use a comma to set off Absolute Phrases.

Until now, we would have called an Absolute Phrase a Non-Essential Element and labeled it as Rule #5. From this point on, we will be attributing this particular type of Non-Essential Element to its own rule.

Remember, a phrase is a group of words that forms a unit that is not a complete sentence. Unlike a sentence or a clause, a phrase does not contain both a subject and a finite (conjugated) verb. The particular phrase we are talking about here is the Absolute Phrase.

An absolute phrase starts with a noun, a pronoun, or a noun phrase and contains modifiers like a participle or participial phrase, a prepositional phrase, an adverb or adjective, an adverbial or adjective phrase, or an infinitive phrase. An absolute phrase modifies an entire sentence instead of a single word in the sentence.

*Bulletb* The most common kind of absolute phrase has two parts: a noun phrase + a participle (a word ending in -ing or -ed) or a participial phrase.
Her work completed, Amanda flew home.
[noun phrase= her work + participle= completed]

*Bulletb* Some absolute phrases only contain a noun phrase and a modifier like a prepositional phrase.
His mind on other matters, Jordan didn't notice the growing storm.
[noun phrase= his mind + prepositional phrase= on other matters]

*Bulletb* Some absolute phrases contain a pronoun instead of a noun plus a modifier like an adverbial phrase.
Many students take my class a second term, some even a third.
[pronoun= some + adverbial phrase= even a third]

Absolute phrases are optional in sentences. They can be removed without damaging the grammatical integrity of the sentence. Since Absolute Phrases are ALWAYS non-essential, they are set off from the sentence with commas. Absolute phrases function as a type of modifier that explains more about the general circumstances occurring in the main clause. They may be placed at almost any position in the sentence. It attaches to a sentence with no conjunction.

Examples of Absolute Phrases:

*Noteb* Tina resolved not to give up, her determination strengthened more than ever..
In this sentence, her determination strengthened more than ever is an Absolute Phrase. It is made up of a noun phrase (her determination) and a participial phrase (strengthened more than ever). It explains more about Tina's attitude as described in the main clause of the sentence.

*Noteb* The school term over, the students were comma-placement experts.
[noun phrase= the school term + participle= over--yes, over is a participle meaning finished]

*Noteb** The puppies looked guilty, their tails tucked between their legs.
[noun phrase= their tails + participial phrase= tucked between their legs]

*Noteb* She stared at the floor, her brow furrowed, and whispered his name.
[noun phrase= her brow + participle= furrowed]

*Noteb* The old firefighter stood over the smoking ruins, his senses attuned to any sign of another flare-up.
[noun phrase= his senses + participial phrase= attuned to any sign of another flare-up]

*Noteb* The plumber disappeared into the hole, a pipe wrench in his hand.
[noun phrase= a pipe wrench + prepositional phrase= in his hand]

*Noteb* Its lights off and its doors locked, the mansion looked spooky in the moonlight.
[noun phrases= its lights & its doors + participles= off & locked]

*Noteb* The comma students left the classroom, some to gather at the pub.
[pronoun= some + infinitive phrase= to gather at the pub]

*Noteb* Many boatstheir anchors buried in the sandlay on the salty bed of the dried-up sea.
For emphasis, I used em dashes here instead of commas around the Absolute Phrase.


Rule #1 - Independent Clauses Joined by Coordinating Conjunctions (use commas)
>>Exception #1xa: Independent Clauses Joined by So That (don't use commas)
>>Exception #1xb: Independent Clauses Joined by Subordinating Conjunctions (don't use commas-usually)
>>Exception #1xc: Short Independent Clauses Joined by Coordinating Conjunctions (don't use commas)
>>Exception #1xd: Clauses and Phrases Joined by Coordinating Conjunctions (don't use commas)
>>Exception #1xe: Clauses and Phrases Joined by Coordinating Conjunctions Expressing Extreme Contrast (use commas)

Rule #2 - Introductory Adverbial Clauses (use commas)
Rule #3 - Coordinate Adjectives (use commas)
Rule #4 - Non-Coordinate Adjectives (don't use commas)
Rule #5 - Non-Essential Elements (use commas)
Rule #6 - Essential Elements (don't use commas)
Rule #7 - Essential That Clauses (don't use commas)

Rule #8 - Elements in a Series (use commas)
>>Exception #8x: Conjunctions separating each element (don't use commas)
Rule #9 - Introductory Phrases (use commas)
>>Exception #9x: Short Introductory Prepositional Phrases (don't use commas)
Rule #10 - Ending Participial Phrases (don't use commas)
>>Exception #10x: Ending Participial Phrase not immediately next to word it modifies (use commas)
Rule #11 - Introductory Transitional Words (use commas)
>>Exception #11x: Coordinating conjunction used as an Introductory Transitional Word (don't use commas)
Rule #12 - Interjections (use commas)

Rule #13 (formerly 1xb) - Ending Adverbial Clauses (don't use commas-usually)
>>Exception #13x: Ending Conjunctive Adverbial Then Phrases (use commas-with exceptions)
Rule #14 - Disjunctive Adverbial Words (use commas)
Rule #15 - Adjunctive Adverbial Words (don't use commas)
Rule #16 - Absolute Phrases
(use commas)

Click here for Parts of Speech list: "Parts of Speech for Comma Sense Class

Instructor: Winnie Kay *Smile*

Resource Links for this Lesson:
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