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For example, here's a sentence, "What was new was that(,) now(,) the party abstained from a vote" (you can additionally comment on the "was was" structure, if you wish; I don't see anything wrong with it). What should I do with the commas?

  • Whatever you want to do with them. Use commas only if the meaning of the sentence can be conveyed if now is removed. In short, if what you want to convey could be conveyed with (now), then use commas. Otherwise, don't. Using commas makes now parenthetical and syntactically nonrestrictive. – Jason Bassford Nov 9 '19 at 19:37
  • Should I put a comma on both sides of it or only after an adverbial but not between the preposition and the adverbial? – Sergey Zolotarev Nov 10 '19 at 2:09
  • It has nothing to do with anything being adverbial. It's purely a matter of if now is essential to the meaning you're trying to convey or if it's just optional and additional. I can't tell you if now is essential or not—only you can say that, based on what you mean to say. – Jason Bassford Nov 10 '19 at 3:14
  • Is it even an OPTION to put a comma only AFTER the conjunction but NOT BEFORE it? Tell me that, please – Sergey Zolotarev Nov 11 '19 at 9:28
  • Sure. That would make the phrase that follows it an appositive. It would be clarifying what that was. What was new was that now. (The party abstained from a vote.) Of course, that would no longer be functioning as a conjunction but as a demonstrative pronoun. – Jason Bassford Nov 11 '19 at 12:50

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