A coursebook gives a reference to “inversion after ‘neither / nor’, ‘so’ & ‘such’”, and there is this example:

Such was the weather, that even the most daring windsurfers stayed at home.

The comma in that sentence really confuses me. I wonder if it is necessary at all.


2 Answers 2


An awful lot of commas in English are stylistic, and optional. This is one such case. It is not necessary, but nor is it incorrect. I would sooner not use it, myself, but it might be better in some cases if the writer is trying to build up rhythm.

While we're here, it might be helpful to reflect that this could be rephrased:

The weather was such that even the most daring windsurfers stayed at home.

(n.b.: I'm not sure that such is fulfilling an emphatic role here. Rather, it is a demonstrative determiner.)

  • "It is not necessary, but nor is it incorrect." It is incorrect in written language to place a comma before a that when the that clause continues the idea in the main clause. There is no comma whether or not you remove the that or not. This comma is neither stylistic nor optional. It is a mistake.
    – Lambie
    Mar 13, 2019 at 20:22
  • 1
    @Lambie: Written English has scarcely more absolute rules than spoken English. Some people cling to 19th century ideas like prescriptive grammars - even the most ridiculous ideas of latinate grammars - while others are content to understand English as it is actually used.
    – SamBC
    Mar 13, 2019 at 20:28
  • 1
    In the hope of cutting this baby in half, I'll ask this. If you remove 'that', don't you still need a comma? My feeling is you need to put a comma before 'that' in circumstances where a comma is required if the optional 'that' is removed. Wherever you put 'such was the weather' in the sentence, it forms a clear subclause, and when spoken I'd expect to hear some sort of pause or distinction to be heard. Short version - I'm with @SamBC ... a comma seems perfectly acceptable here. I can't see how adding one 'breaks' the sentence.
    – fred2
    Mar 14, 2019 at 0:01

Sample sentence: Such was the weather, that even the most daring windsurfers stayed at home.

That is incorrect because the that clause is a continuation of the idea describing the weather. That clauses flow directly after an antecedent. The antecedent here is the "Such was the weather". It is a subordinate relative clause. It is subordinated to: Such was the weather.

Sometimes the that can be left out: He was so tired [that] he even forgot to take off his shows.

Here is how one can parse the sample sentence from the OP:

Such was x that even y [did whatever].

Bear in mind: Such was the weather sounds like written text, rather than spoken language and is slightly old-fashioned.

that clauses

That clauses are formally called defining clauses or restrictive clauses or restrictive relativizers. There is much disagreement among linguists and language "professionals" about whether some sentences having the word which clause mean the same thing with which or that.

1) The bike which I keep in my garage is ideal for short trips. [see note 2] 2) The bike that I have in my garage is old.

Prescriptivists do not accept 1) above. They want only 2). Many linguists disagree with that. They say either is acceptable and perfectly understandable. Please note: there are no commas in those examples of restrictive clauses, which is the sample sentence given by the OP here is.

Both prescriptivists and non-prescriptivists would agree that: The bike, which I have in my garage, is old. is a different case. Please note the commas.

None of these linguists and language "professionals" disagree on this: You can use that or which but whichever you chose to use, you either put in two commas:

The bike, which I have in my garage, is old.

OR No commas as in 1) and 2) above.

You would,therefore, never but in a comma before the that's antecedent.

Here is a long discussion of this issue from a linguist's blog, amusingly entitled "Sentence First, An Irishman's Blog about the English Language. blog entry

And I will finish here with what the blog starts with:

Quote: "That which is restrictive This is quite a long post about a distinction some people make between that and which as relative pronouns — an oft-disputed point of English usage. Feel free to skip ahead if you’re familiar with the territory.

Restrictive clauses (aka defining or integrated relative clauses) provide information that’s essential to a sentence. Take this one:

The bike that I keep in the garage is ideal for short trips.

The underlined clause is integral to the sentence, for reasons context would normally make clear. For example, there may be an implication that I have access to other bikes, so the restrictive clause defines or restricts what bike I’m talking about."

Below are examples culled from the Internet:

1) Such were the charges that led to the trials of Klaus Barbie,Paul Touvier, and Maurice Papon.

France and Trials for Crimes against Humanity Annette Wieviorka

2) Yet such were the charges that Director-General George Entwistle was called upon to answer yesterday, when he was summoned to the Commons by the all-party culture and media committee. The Daily Mail

3) Such were the problems that faced them as they struggled to build their early steam engines. James Watt and the steam engine by H. W. Dickenson and R. Jenkins in The New Scientist, 1981

4) Such were the problems that my Upward Bound unit was trying to address among kids from families that, in that region, were mostly white. The Tennessean


You must log in to answer this question.

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