Assume that we are using the style with the Oxford comma throughout the text (here we don't discuss the appropriateness of the style itself, plainly assuming that it is given). Where do we put commas in the following sentence:

"The vector x satisfies A and B but not C."

Here, A, B, and C are references to certain formulas mentioned in the text. The meaning of the sentence is A(x) ∧ B(x) ∧ ¬C(x), if anyone cares.

Reference are appreciated (I did not find any online).

  • 1
    I would put it after B, but I am not sure.
    – Cardinal
    Commented Jul 31, 2016 at 16:23
  • 3
    "The vector x satisfies A and B, but not C." It would be usual to put a comma before a conjunction (also in speaking there might be a pause there). But the phrase is so simple that it would be a minor issue at best. See Serial comma. (AmE disclaimer...)
    – user3169
    Commented Jul 31, 2016 at 19:29

2 Answers 2


If I understand correctly, your meaning is that the vector:

  • Satisfies A
  • Satisfies B
  • Does not satisfy C.

In this case, it would be best to disambiguate. It is unclear from your original statement whether the vector satisfies (A ∧ B) jointly, or both A and B severally. To remove this ambiguity, it would help to recast the sentence as follows:

The vector x satisfies both A and B, but not C.

The comma after B is also helpful in preventing the sentence being read as referring to (B ∧ ¬C).

  • I meant that in context, I didn't know which way of stating things you preferred. I realize that logically they are equivalent.
    – verbose
    Commented Feb 6, 2017 at 18:51

The sentence must be like this;

The vector x satisfies A and B but not C.

If I explain the confusion in the comments to the question,

We put comma before but if and only if but is followed by an independent clause, which is not the case.

  • "We put comma before but if and only if but is followed by an independent clause". As far as I know, someone does and someone doesn't: it is sooner a matter of acceptance than a strict rule. For example, you can (see here).
    – Victor B.
    Commented Aug 2, 2016 at 19:12
  • 1
    The reality is that the rules are not so strict... but some rules are pretty strict and you aren't following them... such as your not using spaces after punctuation in a couple of places... and the non-idiomatic phrasing "where is taught academic English".
    – Catija
    Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 0:03
  • 1
    Don't know why people downvoted you, since this answer is correct. You can add a comma before the "but" to add clarification, but it's not necessary. Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 3:28
  • 1
    @user3932000 Some people tend to down vote users who do not agree with them. Thanks for the up vote.
    – Our
    Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 10:11
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    I believe that this answer is not correct in two respects. First of all there is to the best of, my understanding, and in my experience as a native speaker, no absolute rule as described. Secondly, in this example, I would place a comma before "but" to emphasize the grouping of A and B. Commented May 9, 2019 at 14:43

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