Why does the sentence below not have comma after the word young (When clause)?

When we are young we pester our parents with questions because we believe they are omniscient.

(Source: Barron's 601 words)

  • 1
    Welcome to ELL, Sapere_aude! This subordinate clause is so short - only three words - that the meaning of the sentence is perfectly clear without a comma. You are right though: usually there would be a comma there. Commented Aug 29, 2021 at 5:08
  • When you learn English you get taught simple rules, but most writers don't actually follow the rules English teachers speak. There aren't actually fixed, generally agreed rules about commas.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jul 10, 2023 at 18:33
  • Because it flows as a single thing. When we went to the market we shopped for vegetables because your mother told us to. No comma. [we pestered]
    – Lambie
    Commented Jul 10, 2023 at 19:03

1 Answer 1


Writers frequently make exceptions to the "rules." I'm sure that's true of all languages.

Some publications have editorial styles that differ slightly from the "rules" we are taught in elementary school. One common difference is to omit commas that do not affect understanding.

So the "rule" being applied here is probably something like this: Do not place a comma after a short subordinate clause that opens a sentence. This clause is only 4 words long. The absence of a comma does not make it difficult to understand the sentence. If the opening clause were 10+ words, readers might find the sentence difficult to understand (at first) if the comma were absent.


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