I'm a little hung up on where to put the commas and if they are necessary.

I’m in love with a lot of things, but if I had to pick one, it would be chicken, for my love for it trumps all.

I feel like it has too many commas but I don't know which ones belong.

  • 1
    The narrative is a bit long, but looks fine. The comma after "things" is optional, but in no way takes away from the meaning of the sentence. Personally, I would change "it" for "chicken" just to emphasize chicken "my love for chicken trumps all!", and add "just", "to pick just one".
    – Peter
    Apr 19 '16 at 20:13

Your sentence is correctly punctuated. Here are the reasons for each comma:

I'm in love with a lot of things, but...

In this case, you are joining two independent clauses with a conjunction. Note that everything together after the "but" is an independent clause, not just up to the next comma.

If I had to pick one, it would be chicken...

Here you are starting an independent clause with a dependent clause. If you think of the above as a complete sentence, it may look more reasonable.

...it would be chicken, for my love for it trumps all.

In this case, the (first) "for" acts as a conjunction as well, so you are in the clear.


There is a lot of scope for flexibility in punctuation. If you are not satisfied that you have punctuated a sentence clearly, I recommend consulting a style guide. This is a comprehensive guide with lots of clear explanations and examples.

I think that the appropriate section concerns compound complex clauses:

When a dependent clause occurs between two independent clauses and applies only to the second, the dependent clause should be set off with commas.

I also recommend replacing the first for with because: it is already a potentially confusing sentence, and it doesn't help to have two fors in a row with different functions.

I’m in love with a lot of things, but if I had to pick one, it would be chicken because my love for it trumps all.

An alternative approach would be to replace the first comma with a colon: this rule covers using a colon in this way.

[Use a colon] between independent clauses when the second explains, [expands on] or illustrates the first

What's left after the colon is still a compound complex sentence, but the dependent clause has moved to the beginning of it, so this rule applies:

When a sentence begins with a dependent clause that applies to two independent clauses that follow, insert a comma after the dependent clause, but do not insert a comma between the independent clauses.

This is what it will look like:

I’m in love with a lot of things: if I had to pick one, it would be chicken because my love for it trumps all.

  • +1 for changing "for" to "because". You can also use "since". Regarding the colon: shouldn't it be a semicolon instead? a semicolon is a separator similar to a comma, but stronger; whereas a colon is typically used for other purposes, for example: explaining or expanding on a previous statement, or listing several items. Apr 19 '16 at 21:09
  • The semicolon idea is great! I do agree with the comment though, it should be a semicolon, not a colon. Thanks.
    – Abs
    Apr 19 '16 at 22:11
  • @laugh: The stuff after the semicolon expands on the clause before the semi-colon. "I like lots of things: I like chicken best", and therefore a colon is perfect. I have added this rule to my answer as an explanation.
    – JavaLatte
    Apr 20 '16 at 4:52
  • @abs: A semi colon would be better if the two clauses could stand as two aeparate sentences: " I like lots if things; my brother just likes chicken".
    – JavaLatte
    Apr 20 '16 at 5:04
  • I think the colon would fit better as a separator instead of the "for", as in: "if I had to pick one, it would be chicken: my love for it trumps all." Apr 20 '16 at 16:26

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.