For something like this:

Only the cry of wolves, and the bleat of sheep[,] could be heard.

If the first comma weren't there, then I'm fairly certain the second would be unneeded; however given that the first comma is there, is the second needed then?

My guess is that it is needed because if there were no second comma, the two phrases would be separated and thus would be ungrammatical. However, I am not too sure since I see the comma omitted often (around the Internet, so obviously not a reliable source).

  • Is the first comma necessary?
    – Scimonster
    Feb 22, 2016 at 7:00
  • @Scimonster It can be omitted, sure, but it can also be left there. I'm just wondering about the second comma in an hypothetical situation.
    – john2546
    Feb 22, 2016 at 7:10

3 Answers 3


Let's deal with each of these commas in turn.

The first comma, as you've rightly pointed out, is unnecessary. In fact it shouldn't be there at all.

Comma between two nouns in a compound subject or object

Given the use of the word "sheeps", I'm guessing that it's a stylistic choice. So, what now?

If the first comma is there, the second comma becomes absolutely necessary.

Now Grammarly lets us down here - there's no perfect example to provide. We're treating the second part as an 'as well as' (without using those actual words), so let's use that as a guide.

As well as comma

In summary - neither comma should be there. The commas add nothing to the clarity of the sentence. If you feel the burning need to use one, however, use both.


Only the cry of wolves, and the bleat of sheeps[,] could be heard.

There's a very well known rule:

A comma should not be used between the subject and the predicate of the sentence.

So it is grammatically forbidden to use the second comma as it would split the subject from the predicate.

As regards the first comma, it may be used within the compound subject to separate a list of nouns, but in your case, since there are only two items connected by the conjunction and it is not necessary. If there were more than three items, then you would use commas to separate the items and use it optionally before the coordinating conjunction.


There are no such things are punctuation rules. There are only punctuation conventions, and these conventions can vary by genre and/or the type of publication.

In a sentence like this, which has a literary quality, commas or dashes could be used to indicate the sort of pause that adds poignancy to and the bleating of sheep

Only the cry of wolves, and the bleating of sheep, could be heard.

Only the cry of wolves —and the bleating of sheep— could be heard.

In expository prose where such rhetorical features are unusual, you wouldn't typically use a comma unless you wanted to draw particular attention to the phrase:

Only half of the coal and a third of the oil used by the country is produced domestically.

Half the coal —but only a fifth of the oil— is produced domestically.

  • I agree I exaggerated using rule, punctuation conventions is much better. Feb 22, 2016 at 12:35

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