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Is there any difference in meaning with and without commas?

  1. My daughter, so pure, didn't know what I was speaking about.

  2. My daughter so pure, didn't know what I was speaking about. (A comma is removed between daughter and so)

If I had only one daughter, would be sentence 1 only correct?

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    I doubt I've ever heard a native speaker use pure in this exact context (where extreme "purity of thought" causes inability to recognise "the evil that men do"). The more common term here is innocent. The cited text is a "poetic" reduced form of the perfectly ordinary statement My daughter was so innocent she didn't know what I was talking about. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jun 9 at 11:55
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It would be possible—although a bit awkward—to form the sentence without any commas at all:

My daughter so pure didn't know what I was speaking about.

This would only make sense if you had two or more daughters, and only one of them was so pure, so you're adding essential information in order to disambiguate the one daughter from the others.

Assuming you only had two daughters, one so pure and one so evil, it would contrast with the reverse:

My daughter so evil knew exactly what I was speaking about.


This can be compared to the following:

My brother, in San Francisco, is tall.

→ You have a single brother who lives in San Francisco.

My brother in San Francisco is tall.

→ You have more than one brother, and it's the one who lives in San Francisco who is tall.


The difference between the pair of commas and no commas at all is the difference between nonrestrictive information and restrictive information.

In no case can you have just a single comma as in your second sentence.


The only reason the my daughter so pure sounds a bit awkward is because we would normally use a pronoun in that situation.

Although it's not absolutely required, the restrictive version of the sentence would more likely be:

My daughter who is so pure didn't know what I was speaking about.

Note this version also has no commas at all. The reason that it doesn't sound as awkward with the commas is simply because of the pause they add as we read the sentence.

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The second sentence is not grammatical. In the first sentence, the two commas are being used to set of the descriptor "so pure".

You could also say "My daughter was so pure that she didn't know what I was talking about" which is a bit clearer but a bit less poetic.

The number of daughters is not relevant to the grammar here, but if you had more than one you would either have to clarify which one you were talking about or rely on context to do it.

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