Which one of the following two sentences is correct?

The boy whose pen was lost was very poor.


The boy whose pen was lost, was very poor.

Do I require a comma before the 2nd was?

Could you please give me any good online reference of punctuation mark?

Thanks in advance.


2 Answers 2


In a case like this, use either two commas or none:

The boy, whose pen was lost, was very poor.

The boy whose pen was lost was very poor.

In this case, I think you should use two. Here's how one comma usage guide explains it:

3. Use commas to offset appositives from the rest of the sentence.

Appositives act as synonyms for a juxtaposed word or phrase. If the appositive occurs in the middle of the sentence, both sides of the phrase need a comma. As in, "A mallard, a kind of duck, attacked me."

There's one exception to this rule. Don't offset a phrase that gives necessary information to the sentence. Usually, commas surround a non-essential clause or phrase. For example, "The duck that attacked me scared my friend" doesn't require any commas. Even though the phrase "that attacked me" describes "the duck," it provides essential information to the sentence.

So, in your sentence, I would use two commas. However, if we change the sentence just a little bit, we might decide to use no commas at all:

The man whose fortune was lost was now destitute.

The Purdue Online Writing Lab has more information about punctuation.

  • (+1) off-topic question: I'm just curious why you used "now" with "was"? (last example sentence, 2nd occurrence).
    – shin
    Aug 16, 2018 at 8:31
  • @shin - Remember, if we leave out the commas, that means the phrase has "necessary information." I was trying to show a cause-and-effect. Moreover, the original sentence is rather awkward and a little clumsy; I don't think I would ever write, "The man whose fortune was lost was destitute," much less, "The boy, whose pen was lost, was forgetful." Instead, it would be something more like, "The destitute man had lost his fortune," or, "The forgetful boy lost his pen." But this question was about comma placement, so I left all that unaddressed (until you asked).
    – J.R.
    Aug 16, 2018 at 8:46
  • 2
    There's not much structural difference between "the duck that attacked me scared my friend" and "the boy whose pen was lost was very poor". Without further context, both subordinate clauses seem to be essential or restrictive, giving us enough information to know which boy is the boy and which duck is the duck. That being said, I still agree with this answer. Either mark both the beginning and the ending of the interruption, or don't mark any interruption. Aug 16, 2018 at 13:17

Both are understandable but I don't believe the second is correct.

I would personally write it as follows (using your sentence) -

"The boy, whose pen was lost, was very poor."

But I would rewrite it as -

"The boy, who had lost his pen, was very poor."

  • 1
    Can you say why you think it should be rephrased? Aug 16, 2018 at 10:37

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