My question is exactly as mentioned in the title.

What do you call the sentence structure when a comma is used instead of "and" when you have a subject with two verbs (to describe two different actions) and when should such a structure not be used? See below. Hopefully what I mean will make more sense:

"The fat hand descended onto the globe, stopped the spinning."

"Jessica turned away, looked out the window at the gathering darkness."

Both sentences above are from a book.

Is the sentence below OK to you (it was written by me)?:

"Theresa cast a glance at her phone as she got out of the station, pressed the start button."

Thank you for your help.

  • 2
    Both your examples are from Frank Herbert's Dune, which is a very successful book from a very competent writer. But they're both stylized, literary usages that don't occur very often anywhere. Notice that in both cases, the immediately following text goes on to reference immediately following events within the narrative, whereas the two elements linked by a missing and are effectively simultaneous. Imho that's at least part of the reason Herbert chose to discard and ("telescoping" those first two elements into "one preceding event", before the "next" event). Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 14:17
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    In case it's not obvious, my advice is that you accept Herbrert's usage as "valid" (don't kid yourself that he's not a competent writer). But don't copy it yourself - you'll probably never be in a situation where that's a good idea. Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 14:19
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    ...also, I haven't checked the first in detail, but the syntax of the second one would be beyond reproach if instead of ending with a full stop, it continued with and said. But of course, Herbert knows perfectly well that it's poor writing style to litter your story with he said, she said if you can avoid it. Just leave it to the reader to silently imagine those unnecessary words identifying the speaker. Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 14:25
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    Thank you all for your answers. It's very useful! Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 22:42

2 Answers 2


When we have phrases joined together by words such as and or but , this is referred to as coordination. Words like and and but are called coordinators (or 'coordinating conjunctions'). Notice that when we have coordinations of more than two types of phrase or clause, we normally only put a coordinator before the last one:

  • men, women and children
  • red, white and blue

Each of the coordinated clauses or phrases is called a coordinate. Sometimes, we can leave out the coordinator altogether. This is called asyndetic coordination. It looks like this:

  • They were all there: men, women, children.
  • I love bananas, melons, pomegranates.

Notice there is no word and in the examples above. Asyndetic coordination normally happens when there are three or more coordinates. However, it is also, possible to use asyndetic coordination with only two coordinates, as in:

  • She loves melons, pomegranates.

Asyndetic coordination is much rarer than normal coordination, and makes these sentences feel unusual and interesting. It is even rarer when there are only two coordinates. We wouldn't want to use sentences like these all the time.

When we have coordinations of clauses, we can often leave out information which would be repeated in the second clause:

  • I ate the sandwiches, and Bob ate the cake.

Asyndetic coordination is quite common in these special types of "gapped" sentence:

  • I ate the sandwiches, Bob the cake.

The Original Posters examples

The Original Poster's examples of asyndetic coordination are interesting and literary in feeling. They involve the coordination of two verb phrases without any coordinator. They are even more unusual than normal cases of asyndetic coordination, because they each have only two coordinates, not three.

Again, these are interesting and create an unusual atmosphere. But we wouldn't want to read a novel where every sentence was written like this. It would spoil the effect completely.

  • 1
    Asyndetic coordination also sometimes occurs in very informal speech: "He got up, had breakfast, went to the store. There he bought groceries..." I wouldn't advise learners to do this deliberately, though.
    – alphabet
    Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 17:50
  • @alphabet Interesting! Why not? Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 22:57
  • You wouldn't sound too formal if you avoided it, but you might confuse your listeners if you overused it; it isn't generally a deliberate stylistic choice used for rhetorical effect.
    – alphabet
    Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 23:19
  • I do wonder if anyone's come up with rules describing when us native speakers tend to do this. If so, such rules could certainly be taught.
    – alphabet
    Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 23:21
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    @BadZen Really? I'm pretty sure things like "I woke up, had breakfast, ran some errands" are fairly common in informal speech.
    – alphabet
    Commented Jul 31, 2023 at 10:46

Do not make sentences like these. The connective "and" is required in each of these uses.

"The fat hand descended onto the globe, and stopped the spinning."

"Jessica turned away and looked out the window at the gathering darkness."

Authors will sometimes intentionally break grammar rules "creatively", for stylistic reasons. This may or may not actually work for them in their writing, but as an English learner you should know that these sentences are ungrammatical.

We would not speak like this, and it is completely inappropriate to write these sentences in a formal or professional context.

  • I'll disagree with your first objection. Omitting the expected "and" breaks up the flow of the sentence, and emphasizes the deliberate nature of the action, and does so in a very economical way. Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 18:53
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    @WhatRoughBeast All that may be true in terms of style, but it's still ungrammatical. On Writing.SE I'd agree with you, but not here.
    – gotube
    Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 21:18
  • @gotube Why do you say it is ungrammatical? Are you saying that Dune is written in an ungrammatical way? I am surprised. Can you find a vetted grammar resource to back that up? Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 22:33
  • @Araucaria-Nothereanymore. I say it's ungrammatical because generally in English, lists of conjugated verbs must be joined with a conjunction to make compound verbs. There are specific exceptions, I'm sure, but I don't see one here. So I'm saying Herbert took very well-calculated liberties. I don't have access to any authorities on Grammar like CGEL or Swan, but I'd like to see a source that explains what the exception here is
    – gotube
    Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 22:46
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    @BadZen Strictly speaking, this isn't a comma splice; the conjuncts are verb phrases, not independent clauses.
    – alphabet
    Commented Jul 31, 2023 at 18:28

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