Comma in English, How to Use it Correctly

Comma in English, How to Use it Correctly

by | May 11, 2022 | Grammar, Tips, Writing

Of course, there are many ways to use the comma, but it is most often used in these cases:

  • FANBOYS
  • WABBITS
  • unusual word orders
  • lists
  • direct speech
  • discourse markers

FANBOYS

Let’s start with the FANBOYS. It stands for the coordinating conjunctions: For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, and So.

You put a comma before the FANBOYS in compound sentences. For example:

She is studying hard for her IELTS exam, but most of her friends are on vacation now.

Or this other example:

The snow melted, and the birds came out.

WABBITS

The second use of the comma is when you start a sentence with WABBITS. I mean the subordinating conjunctions: when | where, while | after | although | before | because | if | though | since

When the WABBITS begin a sentence, then a comma is placed in the middle of the sentence. Like these examples:

If you go to the gym, you’ll lose weight.

When John gets angry, nobody can stop him.

But remember that when the WABBITS are in the middle of the sentence, then a comma is not needed. Look at these examples:

You’ll lose weight if you go to the gym.

Nobody can stop John when he gets angry.

Unusual Word Orders

Next, if words or expressions are put in unusual places or interrupt the normal progression of a sentence, we usually separate them off by commas. Notice the two commas before and after the word or phrase in the following examples:

My mother wanted to change the wallpapers. My father, however, did not agree.

Our team, believe it or not, almost defeated Argentina!

LISTS

The fourth way to use the comma is when you write a list of adjectives or nouns:

The goalkeeper is tall, dark, and handsome.

He speaks English, Arabic, Spanish, and German.

DIRECT SPEECH

Ok, now let’s look at direct speech in English. In this case, a comma is used between a reporting expression (like “said”) and a piece of direct speech:

He said, “There are no departures in the next two hours.”

DISCOURSE MARKERS

And finally, we use the comma after discourse markers. For example, “in my opinion,” “To sum up,” “For example,” etc.

In my opinion, the way we treat animals should change.

To sum up, it is best to learn how to use ‘comma’ by reading a lot of standard English texts.

So there you have it. These are the most common ways to use this important punctuation mark in English. Next time you want to write something, or before a writing exam, watch this video again to refresh your memory about the correct uses of the comma.

About the Author

About the Author

CEO and Co-founder of Juice Academy

Mehdi Safavi is a Cambridge certified English teacher (CELTA Grade A), IDP-trained IELTS expert, Sussex Downs College TESOL with 17+ years of teaching & teacher training experience. More about him →

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