The concept of using commas to link dependant and independant clauses has always confused me. - Can you please explain this concept?

Here's an example that might help if you're trying to answer my question:

  • Would the following sentence require the second comma? Why or why not?

Innocent children, such as the frail girl who stands before me, will be the victims of my reckless actions.

2 Answers 2


If a clause is parenthetical, an eliminable clause coming in the middle of the main clause or another 'more important' clause, it should either have a comma at beginning and end (as the clause in this sentence does) or a comma at neither.

The clause in your example is parenthetical.

Commas in normal sentences (as opposed to lists) are usually optional, but sometimes if you use one you have to use another - and sometimes the presence or absence of a comma changes the meaning.


I usually say that, in English, the comma is almost always optional, even though many English teachers prefer to say they're required, probably to make things simple for their students. Commas mirror the pauses that occur when a sentence is spoken out loud, and different people will put pauses in different places.

That being said, if you're going to set off an independent clause with commas, you have to use the second comma if you use the first comma. Otherwise it looks weird. For example:

The horse, standing by that tall man is named Sylvester.

You can see how this punctuation is confusing as the pacing of the sentence is awkward. As a glance we might wonder whether the horse or the man is named Sylvester, because it's not clear whether "standing by that tall man" is meant to be an independent clause.

Either of these are fine, although the commas do make it easier to read:

The horse standing by that tall man is named Sylvester.

The horse, standing by that tall man, is named Sylvester.

It's slightly awkward but not particularly confusing, to just use the second comma:

The horse standing by that tall man, is named Sylvester.

  • If you want to be pedantic, the version with no commas is called a "restrictive clause," and you're supposed to prefer that form in cases where dropping the clause would change the meaning of the sentence. You also see restrictive clauses used in cases where it is necessary to disambiguate (e.g. if there are multiple horses present).
    – Kevin
    Feb 22, 2019 at 1:08

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