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Can you please help me explain why there has to be a comma with this sentence:

"Not only have these injuries taught me a lot about myself (comma) they have helped me gain an unexplainable interest in the body and finding new ways to grow"

I know the first clause is a dependent clause and thus requires a comma, but I need more of a grammatical explanation for the student (or is that the sole reason?). I know it is not a dependent adverb clause, so what kind of dependent clause is it (I'm thinking correlative clause)?

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  • In general, you need a comma after the dependent clause if the main clause comes after it. Or, more appropriately, if the main clause comes after the dependent clause (comma) you need a comma after the dependent clause.
    – gotube
    Oct 8, 2022 at 2:22

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Your question concerns the written language as punctuation does not exist in speech. I make this point because we must start here: your sentence is not grammatical because it does not contain a coordinator or a subordinator of any kind. Thus, you are left with two sentences pretending to be one. As written, it must be punctuated as two separate sentences:

Not only have these injuries taught me a lot about myself. They have helped me gain an unexplainable interest in the body and finding new ways to grow.

or we can use a semicolon:

Not only have these injuries taught me a lot about myself; they have helped me gain an unexplainable interest in the body and finding new ways to grow.

(It should be clear from my train of thought that the first clause is not dependent as you claim.)

In speech, we behave as if not only is a kind of conjunction, but in carefully edited written English, it is not. Rather, it is a part of a correlative conjunction: not only . . . but also. Let's use it to revise your sentence.

Not only have these injuries taught me a lot about myself, but they have also helped me gain an unexplainable interest in the body and finding new ways to grow.

Now it is easy to see why a comma must separate the clauses: a comma is required between two independent clauses (though we might make an exception if the clauses are very short).

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