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How would you paraphrase these sentences:

  • I stopped work a year ago when we discovered Jack had a kidney problem.

  • I stopped work a year ago, when we discovered Jack had a kidney problem.

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If you are using "when we discovered Jack had a kidney problem" to clarify why you stopped working, then I would use:

I stopped work a year ago, when we discovered Jack had a kidney problem.

If you are trying to better clarify when you stopped working a year ago (winter, fall, during the election, etc.), then I would use:

I stopped work a year ago when we discovered Jack had a kidney problem.

Given the content of the sentence however, I would think the first is what you are trying to convey.

| improve this answer | |
  • You mean, I stopped work a year ago, when we discovered Jack had a kidney problem. = I stopped work a year ago because we discovered Jack had a kidney problem. ? I think you can still use "when we discovered Jack had a kidney problem" to enhance or clarify "a year ago". E.g. I stopped work a year ago, when we discovered Jack had a kidney problem in June. – Russ80 Nov 15 '15 at 6:27
  • I think it depends on what the author is trying to convey. What if they didn't actually stop work because Jack had a kidney problem but are only using it to convey the approximate time they stopped working. For instance if they were let go (if discussing a job) or grew bored (working on a project). Without the comma the phrase closer modifies when they stopped work. With the comma, It adds additional information to the entire statement. – CluelessJoeJackson Nov 15 '15 at 6:51
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    Right, I agree with the examples that the comma modifies the meaning. For example: "I stopped working a year ago when it became cold outside." versus "I stopped working a year ago, when it became cold outside." In the first sentence, the speaker seems to be conveying that they stopped working last year around the time it was cold outside. Perhaps to point out that they are not used to it now being hot out at their new job. The second sentence implies that they stopped working last year because it was cold outside. – CluelessJoeJackson Nov 15 '15 at 7:04
  • Edited answer based on what you said above and add clarification. – CluelessJoeJackson Nov 15 '15 at 7:14

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