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I watched an interesting YouTube video about commas. In this clip, the author says commas are needed with FANBOYS (for/and/nor/but/or/yet/so).

The example is as follows:

Bartheleme was accepted into the University of Chicago, and he is on the waitlist for Stanford.

However, in this YouTube video clip, the author says it is not necessary when the subject in the first clause is different from the second clause.

The comma-less example that the author uses is:

They went to get pizza but the store was closed.

The example that uses a comma is (the comma is needed as the subject is the same for both of the clauses):

They went to get pizza, but came back with ice cream.

It's confusing because from the first YouTube clip the FANBOYS always need commas, but from the second clip we need the comma only when the subject is the same.

In this video clip, there should be no comma with:

She started the car and drove down the hill.

This example is quite contrary to the second one.

What is the correct usage of comma with FANBOYS? For example, do I need comma or not in this sentence?

I have raised him and tried to give all the support that he needed to become a person who leads a fruitful life,(?) and a model citizen who contributes to make the world a better place.

  • 2
    It's very difficult to present a universally applicable "rule" governing the use of commas. Sometimes, the best method of determining where to place them is to speak the sentence aloud: a pause deserves a comma. FANBOYS is a useful mnemonic, but think of it as a guide, not as a rule. The sentence you present works with or without a comma, but the comma/pause helps to separate the two qualities that the subject was raised to exhibit. – P. E. Dant Oct 1 '16 at 2:29
  • "That something I cannot yet define completely but the feeling comes when you write well and truly of something and know impersonally you have written in that way and those who are paid to read it and report on it do not like the subject so they say it is all a fake, yet you know its value absolutely; or when you do something which people do not consider a serious occupation and yet you know truly, that it is as important and has always been as important as all the things that are in fashion, and when, on the sea, you are ..." -- Those YouTubers must say Hemingway failed their rules. – Damkerng T. Oct 1 '16 at 3:15
  • +1 @DamkerngT. Especially remarkable since Hemingway was renowned for terseness! – P. E. Dant Oct 1 '16 at 5:24
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I think the "rule" is really more of a guideline to help you organize your thoughts around the use of commas. Which is all commas really are -- a way to organize the written word by adding significant pauses to separate parts of a sentence. In practice, some people use commas far less than they should. Other people like to string together sentences with commas until they're the proverbial Mark Twain Literary German.

So a comma is a pause in the conversation. It's not necessary to use commas, but it can be convenient to your readers to help them follow the flow of your thoughts.

To return to your guideline, it seems like the videos recommend using a comma in situations where you're going to change the direction of the action. "I started the car and drove away," is no surprise. That's what cars do. But, "I started the car, and the engine caught on fire," does not flow smoothly from one action to the other. The comma helps define that you, the writer, did not expect the second action to happen. If you were to say this to another person you'd probably insert a pause before the "and" just to add some drama to your anecdote.

So imagine a conversation, and insert commas where they feel appropriate. The more familiar you get with where English speakers insert pauses, the more natural it will become.

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When in doubt, I always add a comma if the one of the two clauses is incomplete. That's the way I was taught, and it seems to be accepted as correct.

For example,

I work hard yet hardly work. ("hardly work" is not a complete sentence; it lacks a subject.)

I work hard, yet I hardly work. (Now "I hardly work" is complete; it has a subject and a verb.)

I often see writers omit commas from very short compound sentences. However, readers have difficulties reading passages aloud (and in their minds) when commas are absent or misplaced. Commas change the way sentences are structured, and without them, readers often end up taking no pause in the sentence when commas are absent in compound sentences. They'll read the first part of a compound sentence, not realising that the sentence has a whole second clause, and awkwardly keep dropping in pitch, neglecting to raise the inflection to signal the second part of the sentence.

The problem comes when readers try to read phrases with two clauses. When the commas are omitted, they end up read as one clause. I've been reading things aloud and been brought to a dead stop when a sentence I thought was going one way ended up continuing into another clause.

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  1. FANBOYS are all coordinating conjunctions and are used to connect two independent clauses

EX. John loves to eat in restaurants, but Mary enjoys to eat at home.

Clause 1= John loves to eat in restaurants. = makes sense and has a subject (John) and a verb (loves).

Clause 2= Mary enjoys to eat at home. = makes sense and has a subject( Mary) and a verb (enjoys).

Both clauses are joined by but. A comma is used because the second clause starts with a subject and verb pair (Mary=subject and enjoys=verb) and also each clause makes sense on its own.

  1. We don't use a comma if the second clause lacks a subject.

Ex. John loves to eat in restaurants and hates to eat at home.

clause 1 makes sense on its own, but clause 2 doesn't and it lacks a subject. hates to eat at home = doesn't make sense and lacks a subject.

  1. If two SHORT independent sentences/clauses are joined by a conjunction then a comma isn't used.

Ex. I hate bread but I love butter.

  1. Also, if a conjunction is used at the end of a list you can omit a comma.

Ex. I need bread, butter, meat and oranges.

However some texts say you should place the comma at the end. (its your choice)

5.if two clauses are of uneven length and even if they contain two subject-verb pairs then you can omit the comma.

Ex Her dog and his cat like to run around the garden every morning.

THESE ARE A FEW OF THE RULES WHICH I HOPE WILL HELP. DONT TRUST EVERYTHING ON YOUTUBE.

SOURCE: MOUNT ROYAL UNIVERSITY ADVANCED GRAMMAR COURSE.

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