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I read in a grammar book that only if the two sentences, [A] n [B], are independent clauses, need to put a comma before "but" in ".....not only..[A]....but also ...[B].."?

But How to determine if [A] n [B] are independent?

Consider:

Tom not only slipped, but also dropped the plate. (correct?)
Tom forgot not only his wallet, but also his hand phone. (correct?)
Tom is not only smart but also kind. (correct?)

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If a clause makes sense on its own, then it is an independent clause (an independent clause will always have a subject and a verb). You do have to put a comma before "but" if it precedes an independent clause.

For example:

Tom not only forgot his wallet, but he also forgot his phone

In the above example, "he also forgot his phone" makes sense on its own, thus it is an independent clause and must be preceded by a comma.

Now take this example:

Tom forgot not only his wallet but also his phone

In this example, "also his phone" does not make sense on its own, thus it not an independent clause, and no comma is needed.

For your last sentence, you are correct to omit the comma, because "but also kind" doesn't make sense on its own, and is not an independent clause:

Tom is not only smart but also kind

However, you could change the sentence to make it into an independent clause, in which case you would need a comma:

Tom is not only smart, but he is also kind

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  • @wei No problem! If this turns out to be your favourite answer do press the tick on the left :) – James Wirth Jun 5 '16 at 13:12
  • I feel "not only" should be parallel. Either it should be "not only is Tom smart, but he is also kind" or it should be "Tom is not only smart but also kind". – ARYF Jun 26 '16 at 6:58

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