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When I was a mere child, my mother supported my father who easily got sick and had to be admitted to the hospital and went through all the hardships.

Someone taught me that when you put a comma after 'father', then you get "father went through all the hardships", while putting commas after 'father' and 'hospital', you get "mother went through all the hardships".

Now I understand how it differs when you put the comma after 'hospital' or not. But do I really need a comma after 'father' in both cases?

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Here is your original sentence:

When I was a mere child, my mother supported my father who easily got sick and had to be admitted to the hospital and went through all the hardships.

First of all, there is a certain level of ambiguity here when it comes to the mother. If you want to make it clear that it was your mother who went through all of the hardships, reverse the order of the list items in the sentence:

When I was a mere child, my mother went through all the hardships and supported my father who easily got sick and had to be admitted to the hospital.

If you don't do this, then it's possible that:

  1. Your mother supported your father.
  2. Your father (a) easily got sick, (b) had to be admitted to the hospital, and (c) went through all the hardships.

In fact, if I didn't know that it was your mother who went through all the hardships (if that's the actual situation), I'd assume it was your father who did—given the fact that he was the one getting sick and going to the hospital all the time.

If you bring went through all the hardships to the front of the sentence, then it's clear who it refers to.


As for the commas, conventional grammar says that if you are expressing restrictive information, you should not use commas; if you are expressing nonrestrictive information you should.

—If you only have one father, then you should use a comma.—

✔ When I was a mere child, my mother went through all the hardships and supported my father, who easily got sick and had to be admitted to the hospital.

The information after the comma is useful, and it conveys additional information, but it's not essential to the sentence. In other words, since you only have one father, you could also say this (albeit not conveying as much information):

When I was a mere child, my mother went through all the hardships and supported my father.


However, let's say that you had some kind of blended family, one in which you considered yourself to have more than one father. (In whatever sense of the word—it could be adopted fathers, stepfathers, men whose biological parentage was not proven but who still played a role in raising you, and so on.)

If you were to just say support my father, it would not be clear which father you were talking about. Therefore, the rest of the sentence is required—and, further, it should not use a comma.

—If you have more than one father, then you should not use a comma.—

✔ When I was a mere child, my mother went through all the hardships and supported my father who easily got sick and had to be admitted to the hospital.

In other words:

(a) My father [Bill] who easily got sick and had to be admitted to the hospital.

As opposed to:

(b) My father [James] who was always strong and healthy.

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