Are the uses of commas in the following sentence incorrect? The quote is taken from the first Harry Potter novel.

"Turning the envelope over, his hand trembling, Harry saw a purple wax seal bearing a coat of arms; a lion, an eagle, a badger and a snake surrounding a large letter 'H'."

Thank you in advance!

  • 3
    What do you think should be incorrect about them?
    – Divizna
    Commented Dec 18, 2023 at 1:49
  • Isn't the sentence "his hand trembling" surrounded by comma splices? Commented Dec 18, 2023 at 1:51
  • 1
    It isn't even a sentence. So, no.
    – Divizna
    Commented Dec 18, 2023 at 3:03
  • Why is it not a sentence? Because of the missing "is"? Commented Dec 18, 2023 at 14:44
  • 1
    I'm not sure if I have the right vocabulary to explain, but it's a phrase that effectively functions as an adverb. If there's anything missing out of it, it's the preposition: with his hand trembling. (Which is a common omission.)
    – Divizna
    Commented Dec 18, 2023 at 18:34

1 Answer 1


There's no error here.

There are two participle clauses: "Turning the envelope over" and "his hand trembling". These are non-finite clauses and act adverbially to describe the context of the main clause of the sentence "Harry saw a purple wax seal..." The rest of the sentence is another participle clause "bearing..." which describes the seal.

It is correct to separate introductory participle clauses from the main clause (and from each other) by commas.

  • A really-professional answer. Thank you so much :) Commented Dec 21, 2023 at 0:52

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .