I'm new here. I am still confused whether I could use comma at certain place in a sentence after looking for several online articles.
I wonder maybe my question is too basic to find specific rules, hopefully I will have some help from you.

  1. The sentence below is from an online article: I wonder why it is natural to not use comma befor "there have been ~~~shortages."

1.1) For well over two decades there have been warnings of a looming crisis in the health-care system due to the ageing population and significant workplace shortages.

1.2) For well over two decades, there have been warnings of a looming crisis in the health-care system due to the ageing population and significant workplace shortages.

  1. This is from Stuart Little: Similar question. Why is there no need to plus a comma after "Before he was many days old"

2.1)enter image description here

2.2) Before he was many days old, he was not only like a mouse ~~~.

  • Do you have a specific reason, for example a rule you could cite, that makes you think there should be a comma? As a first approximation we can say "do you wish the reader to pause at this point?" To my reading we do not want a pause.
    – djna
    Mar 28, 2018 at 11:25
  • If the time is indicated at the beginning of a sentence, I thought that should be separated from the main, independent sentence. So it depends on the writer whether want to pause?? And I just found this website (but I read it slowly) : grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/commas_intro.htm
    – serena
    Mar 28, 2018 at 14:42
  • Your "time indicated at the beginning" rule is a little too simple. I think that your reference seems very useful to give a more detailed set of rules and guidlines. Note that one is "the use of a comma will depend on the writer's sense of the rhythm and flow of the sentence", which is what I was trying say about a pause.
    – djna
    Mar 28, 2018 at 20:48
  • Thank you! djna. I didn't learn grammar well, so I want to rebuild my English foundation, and try to understand sentences or articles in grammar-explainable way..
    – serena
    Mar 29, 2018 at 6:34
  • When commas represent pauses, they are used to mark adverbial phrases so that we don't mistake them for parts of other phrases. Temporal (about time) phrases are almost always adverbial, so we don't need any cues (commas) other than a temporal word like 'decades' or 'days'.
    – amI
    Sep 30, 2018 at 7:01

1 Answer 1


Both are grammatically correct. It's simply a matter of style and preference. In addition to constructions where they are required, commas can also be used to indicate optional, extra components to a sentence—or pauses in speech.

Does the phrase "there have been warnings of a looming crisis" require the qualification of "for well over two decades"? If the information about the time period isn't essential to the point being made, then a comma can be used. (On the other hand, if the information is absolutely essential—is there a looming crisis only because of events in the past two decades?) then a comma should not be used.) Or, do you want the person reading the sentence to pause mentally or verbally? Then a comma can be used.

Sometimes, what's thought of essential by one person is not thought of as essential by another person. In my mind, that last sentence would have been just as effective if I had left out sometimes. I included it because it sounded better to me. But, because I didn't think it was essential (and I liked how a pause there sounded), I added a comma. It would have been just as correct to write it without the comma.

  • I am going to invent a term for accurate answers that are not chosen or that other participants do not upvote. Of course, everything an editor such as yourself (or me, for that matter) says is often overlooked.
    – Lambie
    Mar 3, 2021 at 17:14

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