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My co-worker who is an English native speaker often makes grammar errors like follows:

For example,

Jane has an apple, and a banana.

Robots, and Dolls are for kids.

This really left me bewildered and wondering whether I am wrong or he is. I am pretty sure there should be no comma from what I learned in the States, but it is quite hard and awkward to point out that he is wrong since he is a native.

In addition, there is another sentence makes me confused.

John's red and brown colored shirt that he bought last year and the pants I bought today match perfectly.

In a sentence like that (I highlighted the above), should we need a comma/is it acceptable to use a comma? Because he really loves to use commas in these cases.

John's red, and brown colored shirt that he bought last year and the pants I bought today match perfectly.

or John's red and brown colored shirt that he bought last year, and the pants I bought today match perfectly.

And this will be my revision

John's red-and-brown colored shirt that he bought last year and the pants I bought today match perfectly.

or John's red-and-brown colored shirt, which he bought last year, and the pants I bought today match perfectly. (when I should use commas)

Is there better way to put this? I don't think I can use a semi-colon on this one.

Also this one,

the place is famous for its surrounding mountain and wide lake and excellent restaurants and a nearby theme park.

is following revision better?

the place is famous for its surrounding mountain, wide lake, excellent restaurants, and a nearby theme park.

this is how I would write.

I thought I was perfectly understanding basic grammar rules and now I am confused. Please help me understnad this.

  • This is really at least 3 separate questions and would have been better broken up. – Jay Oct 17 '17 at 3:25
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There should not be a comma in the first examples. Only include a comma when there are more than two things on the list. In that case, you may or may not include a comma before the "and".

Wrong: Jane has an apple, and a banana.

Right: Jane has an apple and a banana.

Right: Jane has an apple, a banana, and an orange.

Also right: Jane has an apple, a banana and an orange.

There are several issues in the "red and brown shirt" sentence.

First, technically "red and brown colored" make up a compound adjective and should be hyphenated. "John's red-and-brown-colored shirt ..." But if you drop the word "colored" it is no longer compound and so no hyphens are called for. "John's red and brown shirt ..."

Note "colored" is superfluous here as red and brown are clearly colors. You really only need it when the name of the color could also be a word for something that is not a color. Like if you said "John's straw-colored shirt", I'd understand that to mean that the shirt is a shade of yellow. But "John's straw shirt" would probably be understood to mean that it is made from straw.

We sometimes add commas to longer sentences to signal to the reader where to take a breath. The rules on this are not very rigidly defined. In this case, the sentence is perfectly valid without commas. If you want to add commas, I'd say, "John's red and brown shirt that he bought last year, and the pants I bought today, match perfectly." I think you need both those commas. If you put just the first, then "match perfectly" gets associated with just the pants rather than the shirt and the pants, which doesn't make sense.

You can change "that he bought yesterday" to "which he bought yesterday", but putting commas around it subtly changes the meaning. When you don't put commas, it is a restrictive clause, that is, the clause distinguishes the noun from other possible cases. If you do put the commas, it becomes a non-restrictive clause, which means that you are describing the thing but not identifying it.

Thus, "John's red and brown pants which (or that) he bought yesterday ..." says that we are talking about the pants that he bought yesterday, as opposed to pants that he might have bought on some other day. But "John's red and brown pants, which he bought yesterday, ..." informs the reader that he bought these pants yesterday, rather than using that as an identifier. To put it another way, it's the difference between saying "you know the pants he bought yesterday? those are the pants I'm talking about" as opposed to "you know the red and brown pants? by the way he bought those yesterday".

  • For the long sentence, a useful simplification is "John's shirt and the pants match perfectly". Here, it doesn't seem to make sense to add a comma between "shirt" and "and" unless the second noun phrase is an appositive. – user45266 Jan 21 at 7:55
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For the first sentence highlighted, you don't need a comma after apple or Robots, because commas are only used for lists of more than two things. The sentence

John's red and brown colored shirt that he bought last year and the pants I bought today matches perfectly

could be changed to either:

  1. John's red and brown colored shirt, which he bought last year, and the pants I bought today match perfectly.

  2. John's red and brown colored shirt that he bought last year and the pants that I bought today match perfectly.

  • Oh I wrote matches, my bad! Anyway thank you for quick reply! I edited the sentences since those errors are off topic! Thank you for pointing out – MAT Oct 17 '17 at 0:09

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