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Does the location of commas in the original explanation (,or not ~ of,) indicate the phrase between them is not neccessary? I wonder whether the change of the location of commas below affects on the original meaning or not~

Ex) 'Deficiency' : The state of not having, or not having enough of, smth that is essential

  1. The state of not having or not having enough of, smth that is essential. (Without the first comma)

  2. The state of not having or not having enough of smth that is essential. (Without any comma)

  • Please try not to say smth when you mean to say something. (I edited it, but realized there were several answers quoting the existing version, so I changed it back.) – Jason Bassford Nov 24 '19 at 6:31
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    Oh, I will, from now on~! Thank you for letting me know. – longne Nov 24 '19 at 11:08
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The two commas make it clear that the first and last part can combine to make a full sentence.

The state of not having smth that is essential.

We know from the two commas that the above is part of the definition.

On the other hand:

The state of not having or not having enough of smth that is essential.

This reads a bit too fast, and could also technically be interpreted as:

The state of not having something (regardless of whether it is essential or not), or, the state of not having enough of smth that is essential.

The other version you mentioned:

The state of not having or not having enough of, smth that is essential.

This does, in a sense, clear up the ambiguity of having no commas, but also seems a bit odd, due to what is now a very sudden break between "of" and "smth". It would never be written this way.

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  • Thank you for pointing out the technical meaning of those examples! That helps my understanding. If you could spare another answer for me, I'd like to ask what would "The state of not having, or not having enough of smth that is essential." mean, as well~! – longne Nov 21 '19 at 21:22
  • This would actually be a much more explicit version of what I wrote for the version with no commas, so definitely not a good way to write it! :) – Chris Mack Nov 21 '19 at 21:50
  • After your explanation, ones with a comma or without any of it certainly sound strange. Thank you again! – longne Nov 23 '19 at 5:38
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Moving or removing commas certainly can change the meaning of a sentence. But in this case, I don't think it does.

The commas here just add a "breathing pause". Adding or removing them doesn't change the meaning.

This is not the same as commas that set something off as a non-restrictive clause, which DOES change the meaning.

I remember when I was a kid in school there was an example of this at a political convention. The English teachers in my school all thought this was fun and exciting. The party's platform included the sentence, "We are opposed to any tax increase which would harm economic growth." A delegate proposed an amendment to add a comma before the word "which", changing it to, "We are opposed to any tax increase, which would harm economic growth." Adding that comma changed the clause from restrictive to non-restrictive. Without the comma, it says that they are opposed to tax increases that would harm the economy. They are not opposed to all tax increases, just those that would harm the economy. But with the comma, they are opposed to all tax increases, and the additional clause indicates that they believe that any tax increase would harm the economy.

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  • Thank you for sharing that experience which encourages me to search more about the usage of the commas in English context. :) – longne Nov 21 '19 at 21:28
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The commas are there so that the sentence is interpreted as

The state of not having smth that is essential or not having enough of smth that is essential

The commas are basically parenthetical. It makes no sense to remove only the first comma and removing both commas prevents the parallelism.

However, even some native speakers misuse commas (because we cannot rely on our proficiency with speaking for help) so there’s actually a pretty good chance that the intended meaning would be understood anyway.

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