I'm confused about commas in English language.

  • German : <main clause> and <main clause>.
  • English: <main clause>, and <main clause>.

In German I know two main clauses combined with "and" or other conjunctions do work on their own and there must be no comma like in you and me. you, and me would be wrong, wouldn't it ?

Example (source):

  • "In order to keep her attention focused on class activities, the student turned off her phone's ringer, and she put her ear buds in her backpack."

    • "the student turned off her phone's ringer" = main clause ?
    • "she put her ear buds in her backpack" = main clause ?

(I don't even know how to ask)
Can someone please explain to me what's behind it in English language ?
And what commas can I leave away ? That's another mystery to me.


  • @Bitterblue I'd say it would depend on which manual of style you use. Check out my old answer: ell.stackexchange.com/a/19659/3281. I mentioned two style manuals in that answer. Commented Sep 3, 2014 at 14:29
  • 1
    Yes, this comma is optional but should probably be included if the clauses are long enough that the sentence would be confusing without them.
    – user230
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 3:21

1 Answer 1


This looks to me like an "Oxford Comma" (aka "Serial Comma") issue. Suppose she also closed her comic book. Should you write "The student turned off her phone's ringer, put her ear buds in her backpack, and closed her comic book", or should you write "The student turned off her phone's ringer, put her ear buds in her backpack and closed her comic book"? There have been long and bitter arguments about this in print, on the internet, and in pubs near English Language faculties all around the world. It's a stylistic choice, but many people seem to think that their choice is a grammatical rule.

  • "Oxford Comma" sounds terrible. For the university at least. Because in my opinion this comma is stylistically bad. But I'll accept your answer because I don't like unanswered questions. I would like to ask you to highlight "It's a stylistic choice" because this is what I got out of this question and discussion. And I'm keeping it in mind for my writing.
    – Bitterblue
    Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 5:55
  • You see, I think it's stylistically good (at least sometimes - I think it depends on the flow of the sentence and the risk of ambiguity). I take it you noticed I used one in my reply. :)
    – digitig
    Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 8:48

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