7

When reading The Economist, I came across this sentence below in bold. According to grammar, we know a sentence must end up with a full stop, instead of a comma. But in this case, "Mr Trump is the president" and "47% of Americans trust him more than they trust the media" both are sentences, why?


IT WAS almost as if Donald Trump was taunting his Republican colleagues. After tweeting an explosive and wholly unsubstantiated claim against Barack Obama on March 4th—“How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones…Bad (or sick) guy!”— the president said it was up to Congress to investigate the matter. “Neither the White House nor the president will comment further,” primly declared his spokesman, Sean Spicer, “until such oversight is conducted.”

Some sort of follow-up is necessary. Mr Trump is the president, 47% of Americans trust him more than they trust the media (according to a Quinnipiac poll), and his charge against Mr Obama was grave. If it were shown that his administration illegally snooped on Mr Trump, Mr Obama’s legacy would be disgraced.

(Source: Donald Trump’s habit of making accusations without evidence is corrosive)

  • 14
    This is an ordinary 'list' of independent clauses conjoined by commas and and: "A is a fact, B is a fact, and C is a fact." – StoneyB on hiatus Mar 13 '17 at 13:50
  • 16
    Note the correct use of the Oxford comma in the original. – Rob K Mar 13 '17 at 14:59
  • 3
    Is it still an Oxford comma when separating clauses? The definition that pops up on Google refers to separating items in a list, which I suppose may technically include a list of clauses, but I never really thought of it as the same. Particularly, in most circumstances it seems to be the consensus that Oxford commas are optional except when dictated by a style guide. In this example of clause separation, however, I don't think the commas are optional at all. – Darren Ringer Mar 13 '17 at 19:40
  • 4
    Note that sometimes semicolons are used instead of commas in this situation. Especially when each list item is a clause. – Kodos Johnson Mar 13 '17 at 22:29
  • 2
    @DavidSchwartz because the way I was taught, in addition to most usage with which I'm familiar, states that commas are required to separate all clauses in a list (despite whether they may be independent). "Commas are optional except where required" - well, yes. Therein lies the confusion. I also admit that I never learned of the "Oxford comma" as an optional thing in any context. It was always taught as required in my schools - and never called "the Oxford comma". – Darren Ringer Mar 14 '17 at 2:03
18

The sentence uses three clauses and has the structure:

  • A, B, and C.

The author could have written:

  • A, and B, and C.

  • Mr Trump is the president, and 47% of Americans trust him more than they trust the media (according to a Quinnipiac poll), and his charge against Mr Obama was grave.

However, usually we prefer only to use the word and before the last item in the list. We put a comma between the first two items to show that they are part of the same sentence. We understand a silent and there, even though we do not write it or say it.

The writer has put these three clauses together like this because they form a list of three things which—when we consider them together—provide evidence for their claim that "some sort of follow-up is necessary".

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.