I am wondering if I need a comma in the following sentence.

To further our understanding of this phenomenon(,) we conducted yet another experiment.

If the sentence was the other way around (We conducted... to further...), I would not use one but with the given order I am not sure whether it may be smart to put one in.

  • 2
    I would use a comma here, but I don't think it's obligatory. You don't need one if you move it to the end of the sentence "we conducted... to further our understanding..." Jul 8, 2017 at 15:51
  • 2
    This is a question about style. There are no hard and fast rules governing the comma. The comma in your sentence is useful in separating the clauses, but understand that it is not required. Jul 8, 2017 at 19:54
  • @P.E.Dant Perhaps you should write that as an answer so we can upvote it.
    – rjpond
    Oct 13, 2017 at 21:43
  • I would probably use the comma, but I don't believe it matters. I tend to overuse commas, though. Nov 19, 2019 at 23:34

3 Answers 3


You do need a comma here. There is a systematic answer for this.

Whenever a sentence begins with an adverbial phrase, use a comma. (source: https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/punctuation/commas/extended_rules_for_commas.html)

An adverbial phrase explains things like: Manner, timing, reason, purpose among others. In this case, you have an infinitive of purpose as an adverbial phrase.

In your case:

To further our understanding of this phenomenon, (Adverbial of purpose)

we conducted yet another experiment. (main clause)

Other similar examples:

To help him start his car, we pushed it until it started rolling.

To better understand what they were doing, we started spying on them.

Usage: These phrases use infinitives of purposes as adverbial phrases. It is much more common to place them at the end of a sentence like so:

We pushed his car until it started rolling to help him start it.

One might be tempted to think that it makes no difference, but it does. The reason one would put this at the beginning is to emphasize the purpose. Consider this context.

To help him start his car, we pushed it until it started rolling. To help him repair it, we called a mechanic. To convince him to leave, we offered him some of the stale food we had.

Also consider this phrasing in which the first purpose is logical, whereas the second oen is somewhat surprising:

We started spying on them to better understand what they were doing. To join them, we confessed that had been spying on them.


You are correct in putting a comma there. This is because "To further..." is a separate clause. Another example is "In order that we gain a greater understanding,...".

  • You wouldn't use a comma if you say "we conducted yet another experiment to further our understanding of this phenomenon." Jul 30, 2017 at 0:57
  • No, but the way it is phrased in the question creates the clause "To further our understanding,.." which is much like "In order to further our understanding,..". Both phrases use a comma.
    – user183590
    Jul 30, 2017 at 1:04
  • I don't see what you mean by 'in order to..' , but AFAIK, fronted adverbials normally take a comma (though it's not always obligatory). Jul 30, 2017 at 4:22
  • It's just like how you use a comma with subordinate clauses when they start the sentence ("After ___, we ___") but not when they end the sentence ("We ___ after ___")
    – eques
    Aug 29, 2017 at 17:33

I think you would use a comma when the infinitive is at the start, but not when it is at the end.

I believe this is because it is helpful to separate your purpose from your actions. When the infinitive is at the start, the comma does that job, and when it is at the end, you can tell from the "to".

  • You "think"? Can you please provide a little more evidence.
    – Chenmunka
    Dec 9, 2020 at 10:12
  • Well it's largely personal preference. I am just speaking from my experience having lived in England all my life. Do I need to provide citations or something?
    – Llama Boy
    Dec 9, 2020 at 10:22

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .