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01/11/2018

Punctuation mark in the complex sentence

A subject clause, like the subject of a simple sentence, is not divided by any punctuation mark from the rest of the sentence, being closely connected with it, since this clause is the subject of the whole complex sentence, and only a brief pause is needed.

Neither the place of such clause in the sentence, nor the way of its introduction, influences the punctuation. It may come at the beginning of the sentence, or, when introduced by the anticipatory ‘it’, at the end.

Subject clauses are joined to the rest of the sentence by means of the conjunction ‘that’, by the conjunctive adverbs ‘how’, ‘why’, ‘when’, ‘where’, and by the conjunctive pronouns ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘which’. For example: “It seemed utterly grotesque to him that he should be standing there facing a charge of murder”.

In rare cases there is a comma after a long subject clause to denote a pause: “Why his widow, of all women, should have come into the country, was the great interrogation”.

A predicative clause, like the predicative of a simple sentence, is not marked off by any punctuation mark from the rest of the sentence, being closely connected with it, since this clause is the predicative of the whole complex sentence, and only a brief pause is needed.

The way of introduction does not influence the punctuation. These clauses are introduced by the conjunctions ‘that’, ‘as if, ‘as though’, ‘whether’, by the conjunctive pronouns ‘what’, ‘who’, ‘which’, and by the conjunctive adverbs ‘why’, ‘how’, ‘when’, ‘where’. When’ introduced asyndetically, a predicative clause is marked off by a comma, or by a dash to indicate a longer pause: “The trouble with our young men is that they are still too romantic”.

The corresponding Russian subordinate clauses are marked off by commas. They are not introduced asyndetically.

Often some part of the sentence, or some clause, which should be set off by commas according to the rules of punctuation, comes between the link verb and the predicative clause, thus splitting them: “The result was that, by the time everything was ready, the tea was waiting.”

An object clause, like an object of a simple sentence, is not separated by any punctuation mark from the principal clause, being closely connected with the verb or the verbal it depends on. Almost no pause is needed before an object clause.

If the object clause precedes the principal clause, there may be a comma between them to denote a pause and emphasis.

Object clauses are often introduced asyndetically; also, by the conjunctions ‘that’, ‘if, ‘whether’, ‘lest’, by the conjunctive adverbs ‘how’, ‘when’, ‘where’, ‘why’, and by the conjunctive pronouns ‘what’, ‘which’, ‘who’.

If it precedes the principal clause, there may be a dash between the two clauses following the principal clause: “I couldn’t tell who the speakers were”.

And preceding the principal clause: “What was great and strong to him, she missed”.

There may be a comma before an object clause, if the latter adds a specifying, explanatory meaning to some object of the main clause: “So you must tell me all about it, what it does and what it makes and sells”.

Restrictive (or limiting) attached attributive clauses are joined to the principal clause either asyndetically (‘contact clauses’), or by the relative pronouns ‘that’, ‘which’, ‘who (whom)’, by the relative adverbs ‘when’, ‘where’, without any punctuation mark to denote close connection, with the antecedent in the main clause. For example: “All I can say is that my whole life is changed”.

Non-restrictive (or descriptive) detached attributive clauses introduced by the relative pronouns ‘who’, ‘which’, and by the relative adverbs ‘when’, ‘where’, are normally set off by a comma or double commas to denote their detached character and the additional information concerning the antecedent in the main clause: “The governor, who was an angry man, received them with great courtesy”.

A descriptive attributive (continuative) clause modifying the whole principal clause is marked off from the “latter by a comma or double commas. Such clauses are introduced by the relative pronoun ‘which’.

Appositive attributive clauses modifying abstract nouns, such as ‘information’, ‘feeling’, ‘thought’, ‘idea’, ‘fact’, ‘notion’, ‘remark’, ‘impression’, ‘expression’, etc., are introduced by the conjunctions ‘that’, ‘whether’, normally without any punctuation mark: “Andrew had no idea whether he was doing well or badly”.

An adverbial clause of time preceding the main clause is normally set off by a comma, like a lengthy adverbial modifier of time, to denote weak dependence, rising tone, and a pause. (This is not a strict rule, some writers omit the comma.)

Adverbial clauses of time are introduced by the conjunctions ‘when’, ‘as’, ‘before’, ‘after’, ‘while’, ‘since’, ’till’, ‘until’, ‘directly’, ‘as soon as’: “When these two came to tea, there would be whispers and glances of understanding”.

When placed in the middle of the main clause, thus splitting it, and acquiring a detached character, an adverbial clause of time, is set off by double commas: “One evening, he said, after he had been struggling like that, and long after he had quit seeing people, he wrote his second novel”.

When following the main clause, an adverbial clause of time is usually not set off by any punctuation mark, occupying the regular place of an adverbial modifier of time, and being tightly attached to the principal clause: “Ah, we rarely feel the charm of our own tongue until it reaches our ears under a foreign sky”.

Like an adverbial modifier, an adverbial clause of time may have a detached character, so it is marked off by a comma, even though it follows the principal clause, which is usually pronounced with a falling tone: “The keen bite of the wind met them, as they stepped out of the cage”.

An appositive adverbial clause of time, following an adverbial modifier of time, is marked off by a comma or double commas, to denote its detached, explanatory and additional character: “Now, when he had corked the bottle, the sheriff bit off a chew of apple”.

Adverbial clauses of time introduced by the connective groups ‘hardly – when’, ‘scarcely – when’, ‘no sooner–than’, ‘barely – when’, ‘barely – before’ are never set off by any punctuation mark from the principal clauses, being very closely connected with them, the first parts of these groups belonging to the principal clauses: “No sooner had this letter arrived than her mind was at work planning a meeting”.

An adverbial clause of condition preceding the principal clause is usually set off by a comma to denote weak dependence, rising tone, and a pause. The same in case of inversion.

Adverbial clauses of condition are introduced by the conjunctions ‘if, ‘in case’, ‘unless’, ‘provided’: “Should you care for a full explanation of the action we are compelled to take, you may call any day between 11.10 and 11.40 a.m.”.

In case an adverbial clause of condition follows the main clause, there is normally no punctuation mark before the subordinate clause to denote close connection with, and absolute dependence on the principal clause: “Don’t let me detain you if you wish to see it”.

Sometimes an adverbial clause of condition has a detached character, showing faint dependence; so there is a comma, even if the subordinate clause follows the main clause, which is usually pronounced with a falling tone: “She should have cherished it, if her imagination had been caught”.

Adverbial clauses of place introduced by the conjunctions ‘where’, ‘wherever’ are, like adverbial modifiers of place, not marked off by any punctuation mark from the principal clause. For example: “Andrew began to read where, at college, he had left off”.

An adverbial clause of cause (or reason), like an adverbial modifier of cause, is generally not set off by any punctuation mark when placed after the principal clause, to indicate absolute dependence on the latter. These clauses are introduced by the conjunctions ‘because’, ‘since’, ‘as’: “She was touched by a faint feeling of guilt because she couldn’t lock it from the outside”.

An adverbial clause of cause placed at the head of the sentence is normally marked off by a comma to denote weaker dependence on the main clause, rising tone, and a pause: “Because he was writing, he, of course, neglected his job, his wife, his kids”.

An adverbial clause of cause, like an adverbial modifier of cause, may have a detached character; so it is separated by a comma from the principal clause, which is usually pronounced with a falling tone in such case: “They had had trifling disagreements, because they were both obstinate”.

An adverbial clause of purpose, like an adverbial modifier of purpose, is usually not set off by any punctuation mark from the main clause to denote its attached character. Such clauses are introduced by the conjunctions ‘that’, ‘lest’, ‘so’, ‘so that’, ‘in order that’: “He went in dread of Llewellyn and the Committee lest he should be suddenly dismissed”.

An adverbial clause of comparison introduced by the conjunctions ‘as’ – after the adverbs ‘as’, ‘not so’ in the principal clause –, ‘than’ – after the adverbs ‘more’, ‘less’, ‘better’, ‘worse’, etc. – are usually not set off by any punctuation mark to denote their close connection with the principal clause and the adverbs: “I was as obstinate as she was”.

Adverbial clauses of comparison introduced by the conjunctions ‘as if, ‘as though’ are usually not set off by any punctuation mark from the principal clauses to denote close connection with the verbs they modify. The principal clauses wouldn’t be complete without these subordinate clauses: “At breakfast next morning Christine behaved as though the whole episode were forgotten”.

Adverbial clauses of comparison introduced by the conjunctions ‘as if, ‘as though’, mostly after adverbial modifiers of manner or comparison in the principal clauses, which are usually pronounced with a falling tone, may have an explanatory, detached character; so they are marked off by a comma; in case of a longer pause, by a dash: “She was speaking with difficulty, as though she had to think hard about each word”.

Adverbial clauses of comparison introduced by the connective adverb groups ‘the more – the more’, ‘the less – the less’, ‘the sooner – the better’, ‘the further – the better’, ‘the harder – the more interesting’, etc., are mostly set off by a comma: “The more he dealt in the habits of animals, the more he knew that he was a man and needed other men”.

Adverbial clauses of result (or consequence), like adverbial modifiers of result, are not marked off by any punctuation mark, being, mostly, closely connected with adverbial modifiers of degree in the principal clause.

Adverbial clauses of result are introduced by the conjunctions ‘that’ – after the adverb of degree ‘so’, or the prepositional phrase ‘to such an extent’ – and ‘so that’ – often after the adverbs of degree ‘very’, ‘extremely’: “My appearance disturbed these charming children to such an extent that they rushed up and down the corridor in a frenzied state”.

Adverbial clauses of result are sometimes introduced asyndetically without any punctuation mark: “Denny lit a cigarette, his fingers shaking so violently he could barely hold the match”.

Adverbial clauses of concession, no matter what place they may occupy in the sentence, are always set off by a comma from the principal clause, having a detached character.

These clauses are introduced by the conjunctions ‘though’, ‘although’, ‘even if, ‘even though’; by the adverb ‘however’, by the pronouns ‘whatever’, ‘whoever’, ‘whichever’, and the connective groups ‘no matter how’, ‘no matter what’, ‘no matter who’, ‘no matter which’, ‘no matter when’, ‘no matter where’. For example: “Oh, so you divide up a brawl according to races, no matter who was right?”

In case an adverbial clause of concession is introduced asyndetically, by means of inversion, there is a comma between the two clauses, to denote rising tone of the subordinate clause, which usually precedes the main clause, and a pause: “Tired as I was, I began to run frantically home”.

An adverbial clause of attending circumstances, like the corresponding adverbial modifier, is marked off by a comma from the principal clause to denote its detached character, falling tone, and a pause. Such clause is introduced by the conjunction ‘while’: “Silently she kissed her mother, while tears fell fast”.

In case of double or several degrees of subordination, the punctuation remains exactly the same as is necessary before each type of subordinate clause: “Now he began to question if there were not some truth in what Denny said”.

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